Water safety: Don’t forget to talk with teens

55ce47469c662.imageWhen we think of drowning prevention, we often think of toddlers. Rightfully so — toddlers make up the largest group of drowning victims here in Arizona. But the second-place spot for drowning might surprise you: teens.

Everyone agrees that parenting teens is tricky. New freedoms like driving, travelling, and jobs can make them look and feel very adult. Parents of teens know that their sons and daughters are still growing on the inside, even if they’re taller and bigger than us on the outside.

This creates an almost daily push-pull relationship. They might want us to show them how to order shoes online, but they certainly don’t want us reminding them to be careful about sharing private information on Snapchat. And we’re struggling to demonstrate our faith in them, while resisting the urge to bubble-wrap them on the way out the door.

Many families are curious and open to suggestions on water safety for children between the ages of 7 to 14. But after that, parent-child talks tend to be about driving and social issues. This is unfortunate, because in Arizona, from 2008 to 2012, the drowning rate for teens ages 15 to 17 was more than triple the rate for ages seven to 14.

Parents may also feel that teaching water safety to teens is too complicated. How do you share and enforce safety rules in a place where you feel safe, like your own backyard, with someone who drives himself to school every day?

Like most teen parenting, find the balance between her independence, what experts tell us, and your own gut. It’s appropriate for a teen who is a competent swimmer to have friends over to swim without a parent at her elbow — but it’s also appropriate for her father to stay close enough to know what’s happening at the pool and intervene if necessary.

Why do teens need an adult in the area? Sometimes they don’t want to admit to their peers that they aren’t strong swimmers. Sometimes they don’t realize when a practical joke has turned dangerous. And sometimes alcohol and drugs are an issue.

And what about when they’re away from home, say at the river or lake? You can find strategies that acknowledge independence, but also reduce danger. Visit the river and lake with them, talking and being an example when it comes to life jackets and designated drivers. Ask questions when they want to go with others. Tell him to turn down an invitation if your gut tells you to.

There’s never a time in life when being a parent feels less like being a friend than when your kids become teens. But you play the most important role when it comes to keeping your teens safe on and around the water.

This August, for a little extra help starting conversations about water safety, visitphoenixchildrens.org and check out our water safety program, Drowning Impact Awareness Month. You’ll find pickup locations for purple ribbons, copies of Gov. Doug Ducey’s proclamation, and more.

Source: Ahwatukee Foothills News