Would you know how to spot a child who was drowning?

I was a much better parent before I had children. Back then, I would never entertain my children by sticking the TV on. I refused to let them get their own way just because they threw an epic tantrum. The only snacks that would pass their lips were carefully selected organic delights. I was the model parent… until my little girl came into the world. These days – and I am going to hold my hands up here – I give in to the tantrums, I let Peppa Pig babysit so that I can have five minutes peace, I bribe my little darling with a bag of Milky Buttons if we can just get round the supermarket without making a scene…

The movies totally misled me before having kids. They made it look easy, so I was sure that parenting was going to be an absolute walk in the park. Now I am a parent – a proud owner of a headstrong two year old – I sometimes feel that the only park I walk through is Jurassic Park!

How the movies show it…

It’s not the first time movies have ‘lied’ to us, and I am sure it won’t be the last. Most of the time, we know the ways things are portrayed in the movies rarely reflect the reality of our day-to-day lives. Other times, though, it’s perhaps not so obvious. Take drowning, for example; in the movies, we’d usually see lots of splashing, flailing arms, and lots of shouting – there’s no way you’d miss it. Growing up, I always assumed this is just what drowning looked like. I would know if I was ever to see somebody in trouble on the water. I would hear it. So would everybody else. Help would be on the way.

… and how it happens in reality

The reality of drowning, though, is often very different. The signs can be subtle, and thus easily missed. In sharp contrast to the movie norm, a person who is drowning:

  • Will often be silent, and therefore unable to call for help
  • May be unable to wave or signal as their natural instinct to press down on the water’s surface kicks in
  • Could be unable to control their arm movements, making it difficult to swim to safety or hold on to a lifeline
  • Will, more often than not, be vertical in the water and not showing any signs of kicking

I was a bit taken aback when I first heard this, as it’s never how I had pictured drowning before. When I became a parent, I was sure that I wanted to introduce my little girl to the water at a young age. Of course, I would always keep a very close eye on her but I always thought that, if she was to get into danger, I’d know about it.

One Nemo parent’s story

Nemo Swimming recently teamed up with Tumbles and Grumbles to share some hints and tips to help you keep your children safe in the water this summer. Following this, one parent got in touch with Tumbles and Grumbles and shared her story:

“One afternoon I was standing… in the shallow end of the pool. After chatting away to my father in law… I noticed something in the pool just behind him. On second glance, I realised that it was someone’s hat floating on the surface and then spotted two hands just flap very briefly out of the water… There was no real noise, just a bit of a gurgling sound… I rushed over to find a six or seven year old child actually drowning, with no parents in sight. The life guard would never have seen the child as there was a bush between the two of them.

I carried the child out of the pool and the life guard rushed over and thanked me. The child’s mother came rushing over, oblivious that her child was in the water by himself and could have possibly drowned on their family holiday. It just takes seconds!”

A scary story, but thankfully one with a happy ending. It just goes to show, though, how quickly children can get into trouble in the water, and how easily tragedies can happen. No splashing. No shouting. A silent tragedy that was narrowly avoided.

What can you do to keep your children in the water?

  1. Constant and active adult supervision – never leave your children unattended in the water, not even for a minute.
  2. Restrict access – place a barrier around the water to stop young children accessing it when your back is turned. If that’s not possible, place a barrier around your little one instead.
  3. Build water confidence – familiarise your baby, toddler or young child with the water, discuss water safety with them, and set rules for in and around the water.
  4. Rescue and resuscitation – make sure you are trained in basic rescue techniques, so that you know what to do in case the worst was to happen. Check out this fantastic video about the importance of learning CPR from Tumbles and Grumbles

Written by Emma, Nemo Swimming, with input from Caroline, Tumbles and Grumbles