May 28, 2017

Summer is upon us and unfortunately, that means that there will be at least one local news story about a child drowning.  It happens every year (too many times).

Typically, these are ruled as accidental deaths but occasionally there is a person held responsible for failing to provide appropriate supervision.

Swimming in fun.  Drowning, even just talking about it as a means of prevention is not fun.  Many of you won’t even want to read this week’s article because you don’t want to be lectured about drowning.

You might be thinking

My child knows how to swim.

My child knows better than to go in the water without me.

My child doesn’t go anywhere where there is water.

This will never happen to me.”


Obligatory Statistics About Child Drowning:

The CDC reports that:

  • There are about 10 deaths per day from drowning annually in the United States.
  • About one in five people who die from drowning are children 14 and younger.
  • Most drownings occur in June, July, and August.
  • 1/3 of all child deaths occur from drowning and kids ages 1-4 are at highest risk
  • Most child drownings occur in a backyard swimming pool
  • Boys are more likely to drown than girls and
  • African American children 5-19 drown in swimming pools at rates 5.5 times higher than those of whites.

Teach Your Child To Swim!

One way that you can reduce your child’s risk of drowning is to teach them to swim! Notice, I said “reduce” because a child that is known as a “good swimmer” is still a child and is still at risk for drowning.

Around this time of year, the video of Infant Rescue Swimming classes start popping up.  I am always amazed to watch these videos of teeny, tiny babies swimming the length of the pool.   You can watch an example of Baby Elizabeth swimming the length of pool here.   Last summer, this video sparked a huge debate in a play therapy group about whether this child was “in distress” or “being traumatized.”

I personally think it is pretty cool.  I also think that it requires very specific training and should not be attempted on your own.  For more information about Infant Rescue Swimming go here.  You can find traditional swimming lessons for your older children (usually 3 and up) if you just do a quick Google search.

Supervision Is Key In Drowning Prevention

Regardless of what age your child learned to swim, how often they are in the water, or your confidence in their ability…

The only way to prevent drownings is to SUPERVISE, SUPERVISE, SUPERVISE.

Warning:  Soapbox Alert

I am not a panicky type Mom.  I fully believe that you can show confidence in your child’s ability in a pool without hovering every second and freaking out if they go under water.  But, I get extremely annoyed when I see kids swimming unsupervised!

Supervision for drowning means


Supervision does not include

  • Watching kids swim through the window of your home
  • Tanning on a chair close by with your eyes closed
  • Playing on your phone or reading a book while your kids are swimming
  • Assuming that just because your child has on floaties or some other life jacket that they will be fine
  • Expecting the lifeguards to do all of the supervision.

Remember, that statistic about OLDER children.  They drown too!  It is super easy for a child to get overexerted, dehydrated, swallow water and panic or have some other medical emergency while they are swimming.


My recommendation is to have an adult in the pool if there are children in the pool.

 At the very least, an adult that is PREPARED TO GET WET at the edge of the pool at all times.

I can hear people who have pools at their house telling me that this is ridiculous.  That they let their teens swim all the time and they are fine.

In fact, I did it.  I was raised in Florida. I swam in our backyard pool unsupervised all.the.time.

And, some kids might really be safe in the pool unsupervised.  Those kids are NEVER under the age of 5.  NEVER.   Just saying.

Other Drowning Prevention Tips From the CDC:

  • Learn basic swimming skills
  • Life jackets can be helpful
  • Install a pool fence and have alarms on your doors/windows
  • Supervise
  • Use a buddy system

Final Thoughts:

If you have lost a child due to drowning, my heart literally breaks for you.  This post is not meant to be blaming or judgmental in anyway.

Like I said, a lot of really fantastic parents have dealt with this issue because young children are curious, they are fast, and they are stubborn.

I have three children three and under-they love the water! They can not swim.  They are at high risk!

Please, swim! Enjoy your summer and get outside.  Swimming is good exercise and being outside is hundred times better than staying inside and playing video games all summer.

Just be mindful of the risks and when people tell you that you are being paranoid, tell them that Jennifer Taylor said that they are not allowed to supervise your little swimmers.

Please share with someone that has a pool, a child, a grandchild, a friend with a child, a neighbor with a child…just share it!

And if you’re not already subscribed, do so here.


About the Author

Jen Taylor, LCSW-C, RPT-S is an EMDR Approved Consultant and Certified Journal to the Self Instructor.  She is a therapist specializing in complex trauma, an international play therapy teacher and a published writer of multiple play therapy chapters.  Jen is the creator of the original 2017 Play Therapy Summit and many other innovative programs for mental health professionals.  Jen uses writing therapy, play therapy and expressive arts for her clients and for other mental health professionals so they can lead more joyful and meaningful lives.  Jen encourages people to try new things and create daily habits that allow for incremental progress towards previously unimaginable results.   Jen is a travel enthusiast, an avid reader, and a girl who lifts weights and runs for fun.  

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