Need a minute,
mama?
Get the best of Motherly—delivered to your inbox.
(We thought so.)
Subscribe to the Motherly Minute
for need-to-know parenting
news + top product recommendations
delivered daily to your inbox.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy
and Terms & Conditions

Welcome to
#Team Motherly.

Check your inbox for an email
to confirm your subscription
—we can’t wait to start bringing
the best of Motherly right to you.

x

A drowning investigator's plea to parents about water safety goes viral

Print Friendly and PDF

[Editor's note: Natalie Livingston has been in the aquatics industry for decades, training lifeguards and investigating aquatic accidents and drowning deaths. She is passionate about preventing the kinds of accidents she investigates, and that is why a Facebook post she wrote is now going viral. The following post was republished with her permission.]

I investigate drownings. I understand the realities of what can happen, often so quickly and quietly. I read a lot about water safety and tips telling parents to pay attention to their children and not be distracted, which is so important. We see so many news articles about drowning during this time of year, but a lot of the advice isn't practical and just highlights the problems, so I decided to write my own list of tips to help.

FEATURED VIDEO

Here is a list of 10 random things I do to keep my own kids safe in the water.

1. Give safety briefings

This actually started with a swim lesson procedure of making sure they always asked permission before entering the water. I have expanded it by having a little meeting about expectations. My kids now know to wait (sometimes impatiently continually asking me, "Mom, what do we need to know…can we go yet?!?!?") until I give my briefing.

I outline where they can swim, jump in, how they can jump in and anything else safety-related. A great time to do this is while applying sunscreen. They also know the consequences if they don't follow the safety rules.

These meetings are a way for me to teach my kids respect for the water. They obviously know it is dangerous, knowing what I do for work, but sometimes aquatic centers, water parks, beaches and pools look so fun and enticing that it is easy to forget.

I think as parents we need to be just as concerned with the safety as we are with the fun, but that takes effort. I think some people may not want to ruin the fun by adding in rules, but I know rules create boundaries, which gives freedom in safety.

I also love including my children in the safety briefings. What do they think the rules should be? What do they see as dangerous? They have some amazing insights too and sometimes see things I didn't think of right away!

2. Depths of water vs. height

My kids know depths of water and how to read them on the pool deck, and they know what it means related to their height. My 6-year-old knows that 4 ft of water is over his head, and 3 1/2 ft of water is up to his eyes, which is still over his airway. My 8-year-old daughter knows that 4f t of water is at her eyes and she will need to tread and can't have her airway out at this depth.

This piece of knowledge helps them make good decisions and helps them understand how water depths are different for each person. Their taller friend may have no problem in the 4ft area, while they would need to tread or have trouble touching. Awareness of depth in relation to their body is important. This keeps me away from the, "But mom, Jayden gets to go over there…" Yes, he does, he is also 6" taller than you are, buddy!

3. How to get away

I jumped in last weekend fully clothed with my phone in my hand at my 8-year-old daughter's all-star softball hotel swim session after a tournament. It was instinct—a 5-year-old boy panicked and grabbed onto a 4-year-old girl and they were both struggling. He was holding her down and trying to keep himself above the water. In I went and scooped both of them out.

They were both naturally scared, and a little burping of water/air, but they were fine. We see this all the time in drowning events, swimmers who are okay on their own, have someone grab onto them because they are struggling and they can't get away.

I have taught, and I am still teaching my kids how to get away if someone grabs onto them. My daughter is a great swimmer, but I still don't think she can tread water and keep her and another kid above the waterline. I've taught them to suck, duck, tuck:

  • Suck in air if you can (get a breath)
  • Duck under the water (the struggling person doesn't want to go there)
  • Tuck (use your arms and legs to push away)—and then yell for an adult immediately to help the other person

I've also taught them to be very careful of who they touch/grab onto in a pool. Even adults can be weaker swimmers and may have a hard time with them hanging on. Personal space is key.

4. Distraction reminders

I ask my kids to keep me accountable. They know either myself or my husband should be watching them at all times. We have told them that if we aren't watching them, they need to get our attention and help us because as humans we get distracted naturally.

I try to stay involved in their activity and also tried to keep my phone away, but I was still distracted with other kids, food, talking, you name it…life is full of distractions. I changed my tactic and downloaded a reminder app, and I set reminders for every minute.

I turn my phone into airplane mode and then use the app. Every minute it alerts me and I have the notification say "Kids Breathing" so I confirm my kids are okay and then clear the notification. Obviously, my goal is constant supervision, but sometimes my brain starts to wander to something I am thinking about and the notification checks me back in.

There are tons of campaigns about designating a "water watcher" with a specific tag indicating you have the responsibility of watching the water. I think these are great tools, and we also need to make sure the water watcher is not distracted.

Alerts can keep you focused as long as you stay off your phone for all other purposes. I put my phone in airplane mode, but you can still have the tendency to look at. Be aware of your distractions both internal and external. If the phone is a distraction all together, maybe alerts aren't for you. Find what works to keep you focused and stick with it for the entire swim time.

5. Designate breaks

We swim for a designated time, usually 30 minutes, but it varies depending on where we are and the activity taking place. Regardless, we always have breaks. I need these breaks more than my kids. They would swim endlessly for hours if I let them, but they need to rest and so do I.

As a lifeguard, we would rotate every 20-30 minutes with the premise being to give our minds a break and so we could stay fresh. The same thing applies to parental supervision. I need to use the restroom, I need to do other things, I need a break too! So, we give time warnings and take swim breaks. Sometimes the breaks are also unscheduled, if I have to make an emergency restroom visit or answer the door, everyone gets out, every time.

6. Limited trust

This may sound harsh, but I don't trust other people to watch my kids in the pool. It is me or my husband, that is it. If they are swimming at Grandma's they have to wear a lifejacket. If they are going in the water at the beach on a board with their cousin, they have to wear a lifejacket.

I see so many events where trust was placed in another person, watch my kids while I go do XYZ, or grandpa took them to the pool, or a neighbor invited them over. I may love these people, and they may love my children, but I don't trust them, nor do I want them to have to own that responsibility if something were to happen to one of my kids in their care. It just isn't worth it.

Do my kids whine, yep. Do I care? Nope! They know the other option is they just don't go. Same goes for school pool parties and camps with water activities, it just isn't worth it for me. Same goes for lifeguarded swimming areas. I know I am my kids' primary source of supervision and the lifeguard(s) are there for back up and emergencies.

I do not rely on them for basic supervision. I only have two children and I can supervise them much more closely than a lifeguard who has divided attention between 25 or more people.

7. Life jackets are cool

Culturally we seem to have a negative attitude towards life jackets. I don't think there is anything wrong with life jackets, in fact, there are so many games and activities you can do with them. We just need to make them cool again.

If there are a bunch of kids I'm watching, I'd rather have everyone be in a life jacket. It can be a cousin life jacket pool party. Having everyone in one makes it much "cooler" and doesn't embarrass the littler kids or weaker swimmers. When I ran camps, even the counselors would wear them, be cool like them!

Having rolling log challenges in the life jackets, water balloon tossing contests, have relays to pass rings from your toes..the games are endless, and the safety is higher with everyone in a life jacket. Now there are times that my kids will even say they would rather just be in a life jacket. Awesome.

**Just an added side note that when referring to "life jacket" I am referring to a USCG approved life jacket (check the inside of the jacket or vest). Noodles, Inflatables, baby circles, tubes, and all other items are not safety-related and should not be used or trusted to keep your child safe.

We see countless videos of kids who flip over in an inflatable ring and can't right themselves and are stuck underwater upside down, or are in arm floaties and can't get their head out of the water because their arms aren't strong enough, or who lose purchase of a kickboard they were holding onto for floatation. Even in a lifejacket, you need to diligently and constantly supervise as children can get in positions that can still obstruct their airway especially if they are younger or weaker.

8. Educate

My kids know what drowning can look like. They know water is dangerous. They know good swimmers can drown. They know medical events can happen without warning. They know that drowning can happen quickly.

I talk about how events happen, about what their weaknesses are. They know they can't breathe in the water, they know why we take breaks from swimming, they know why they enter the water feet first, they know why we don't play breath-holding games or activities. It isn't just because I said so, I try to give them real reasons to my rules. A healthy fear of the water is a good thing.

9. "Hey, watch this…"

Phrases like "Hey, watch this…" usually are the beginning of something dangerous or a little crazy about to take place. This is a kid's way of announcing they are pushing the boundaries or are going to show-off, and I take these phrases as a time to talk about danger and pushing boundaries.

Are they just showing me something or are they about to do something risky? There is a difference and I try to talk about good decisions around the water. Phrases like "Hey, watch this…" are ways to cue into other people's behaviors and intentions. They now alert me when others use these types of phrases too. I always say we can have fun without being dumb.

10. See something, say something

My kids are part of my safety team. They are buddy watchers for each other and I ask them to look out for other kids. I'll often ask my son where his sister is, or what the other person is doing. I want to train them to look at others and make sure they are okay, to know what they are doing.

My daughter the other day said, "Mom, I almost called you…that boy was under the water and I counted from 5…5, 4, 3, 2, 1 but he popped up again before I got to 2." I asked her, what would you do if he was still underwater when you got to one, and she said "I'd say something to you or an adult until you responded". Perfect.

Kids are an additional layer of protection and they have good instincts. My kids know not to assume someone is playing. If they see someone underwater, they start counting. So often, in drowning investigations we see kids (and adults) swimming over or around someone who is underwater and they don't do anything.

They assume they are okay, they assume they are playing, they assume they are doing it on purpose. Don't assume. Teach them the 5-second rule (check out Mel Robbins book on the topic) and if they see something to say something.

Other Water Safety Tips:

I hope this helps and gives you some practical tips to improving safety during your water related activities. Share this information to hopefully prevent any more drownings. Stay safe and vigilant!

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions

As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

British mom Courtney Barker is sharing the story of how her son, 7-month-old Arthur contracted COVID-19 in the hopes of preventing other families from going through what hers is. Thankfully, little Arthur is now feeling better, but last week he was rushed to the hospital.

His mama recalled the experience in a now-viral Facebook post that is attracting worldwide attention.

On Sunday, Barker wrote the post, pleading with others to take self-isolating more seriously after hearing Arthur's story. In Barker's immediate family three people are classified as high risk, so her husband was the only one to leave the home in the last four weeks, making two essential grocery runs.

FEATURED VIDEO

"Yet it has still managed to make its way into our house," Barker wrote on Facebook.

When Arthur came down with a fever and became unconscious and floppy his parents took action to get him medical attention right away. "We never thought it would happen to us because we were so careful," Barker tells Motherly, adding that she chose to share her story on social media because she doesn't want other families "to take even just an ounce of risk" when it comes to spreading the novel coronavirus.

"So PLEASE STAY HOME!" she wrote in her widely-shared post. "If you do have to leave wear gloves and a medical mask. When you get home strip off and wash everything!"

(In North America the CDC and Health Canada have asked medical masks to be reserved for medical personnel and recommend citizens use DIY cloth masks instead.)

Arthur's dad may have come into contact with someone who was positive for COVID-19 but asymptomatic on his grocery runs. That's the point of masks, to prevent asymptomatic people who don't know they are sick from spreading respiratory droplets.

Barker tells Motherly she's encouraging everyone to be as careful as possible and is asking other moms to consider all the activities they can do with their kids at home or in their own backyard instead of in public places like parks and playgrounds.

"I just wish people would take it more seriously before it's too late for them and they end up in our situation or even worse than us," she says.

Thankfully, Arthur's story has a happy ending. In an update on Facebook Barker explains: "Arthur's temperature has gone down, and he is even smiling and sitting up playing! I can't believe In just five days he went from a poorly unconscious little baby to a happy smiling baby again!"

We're so glad Arthur is doing better. Most children who get COVID-19 do have less severe symptoms than adults, but as Barker says it is still so important for families to listen to the recommendations of health authorities in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

News

Over the last few weeks, many of the things we used to take for granted have been taken or transformed due to the coronavirus pandemic and grocery delivery is one of them.

The old days of having your food delivered or your click-and-collect order ready for pick up an hour or two after selecting your groceries through an app are gone (for now), but grocery delivery isn't. We just have to do things a little differently.

Parents have been frustrated—and sometimes even frightened—by the lack of grocery delivery options (especially when one of America's top doctors is saying now is not the time for parents to go grocery shopping) but thankfully, entire industries are pivoting to meet the new demand for home delivery.

If you haven't been able to get groceries delivered lately, new options are springing up to serve you, mama.

Here are some of the new ways to get food without going out:

Call a cab:

In many communities in North America, taxi companies are pivoting to food delivery as they've now got so few people to ferry about. Call your local cab companies and ask if they do food delivery. They may not be able to do the shopping for you, but if your grocery store offers curbside pick-up or click-and-collect they can save you the trip.

Use Door Dash or Postmates:

if you're just trying to get some paper towels or a few smaller items to get you through to your next large grocery shop you can use Door Dash, previously best known for delivering takeout restaurant food, to order staples like diapers, boxes of cereal, milk, sugar and eggs from convenience stores.

Postmates, too, is pivoting into the grocery game and can deliver things like diapers, dog food, fresh fruit and baking powder through its Postmates Fresh service (depending on your area). In some areas you can even use Postmates to place an order from Duane Reed or Walgreens.

Your local markets may be delivering:

It's worth calling your local independent grocery stores to see if they are delivering—many smaller businesses are now offering delivery services as a way to keep customers during the pandemic. It takes some work to call around and find out what the options are in your community but it's totally worth it to get your groceries delivered (with the bonus of supporting your local businesses).

Small specialty stores are also getting into the delivery game:

Don't ignore the specialty shops. Many little butchers, bakeries and natural food stores are willing to deliver to customers right now. This pandemic is forcing us apart but in some ways it's also forcing us to connect with our communities in ways we have not done before.

Make the most of weekly produce boxes:

If you've never signed up for a veggie co-op (sometimes known as community supported agriculture boxes) now is a great time to check them out. Around the country farmers, farmers markets and organic retailers offer weekly or bi-weekly delivered boxes of locally grown, seasonal fruits and vegetables delivered to your door.

If that sounds too fancy for your budget right now check out the Misfits Market box, which offers slightly ugly fruits and veg for 40% less than grocery store prices (just pop your zip code in to see if they deliver to your area.

Ask for help:

Delivery fees can add up, so if that's not in your budget right now you can contact your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. You can also try using Facebook's new Request Help feature to ask others in your community to add your grocery pick up to their run.

An update on standard grocery delivery options:

Instacart's just launched new features to try to get groceries to you faster 

Instacart

When the pandemic confined us to our homes the demand for grocery delivery overwhelmed stores and services that previously offered it, but several companies tell Motherly things are getting back to normal.

While many parents have found it nearly impossible to get groceries via Instacart. the company just launched a couple of new features to help speed things up. The new features are called "Fast & Flexible" and "Order Ahead."

Fast and Flexible "gives customers the option to have their order delivered by the first available shopper, rather than schedule it for a specific delivery window," Instacart states in a news release.

Order Ahead allows customers to now place orders up to two weeks in advance, something that could be really handy as we're all a bit more practical with our menu planning now that we can't run out to the store.

While labor concerns have been an issue for Instacart (and customers who are concerned about the well-being of the people delivering groceries), the company says it has "worked over the last several weeks with several third-party manufacturers, in consultation with medical and infectious disease experts, to source and develop new health and safety kits for shoppers that include face masks, hand sanitizer and thermometers."

Walmart + Amazon are also ramping up delivery capacity

In a statement to Motherly, a Walmart spokesperson explained the company is obviously seeing a huge increase in demand for pickup and delivery services and is trying to offer time slots as soon as possible, but within a shorter time frame than usual.
"It will allow us to better serve our customers during this busy time. We're continuing to work hard to add more availability for pickup and delivery," they explain.

Amazon, too, is making changes to increase capacity, including suspending it's third-party delivery service to focus more on fulfilling essential household deliveries.

News

Of course we're all struggling during the coronavirus quarantine but we might think celebrities aren't in the same boat. Surely they're not struggling too. It's probably a total walk in the park for them.

Well, recently, Jennifer Lopez opened up about her new normal on the at-home edition of The Ellen DeGeneres show and revealed that she's having some difficulty, too. On the show DeGeneres asked who in their household homeschools their four children and the singer shared that she was doing the majority of it—but it hasn't been easy.

"Honestly, I think we're all like, what is this? I'm not a teacher, and also, have you seen the math that they make the kids do now? It's a new math," she said. "Half the time I'm like, 'Okay, yeah, let's look up that word. It's been an experience, for sure."

FEATURED VIDEO

youtube.com


The lockdown isn't only adding a bit of anxiety around teaching her kids, but it's also affecting her wedding date—just like many others around the world. "Honestly, I really don't know what's going to happen as far as [wedding] dates or anything like that. We're just kind of in a holding pattern like the rest of the world. So again, it's something we will have to wait and see in a few months how this all pans out."

We stand with you, JLo. We'll get through it, mama.

News

When the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recommended Americans start using homemade cloth face masks to protect against the coronavirus parents had a lot of questions that were not addressed in the initial White House briefing announcing the change.

Here are the answers to some of the common questions about the CDC's face mask recommendations:

1. Do babies need masks?

No, babies under 2 years old should not wear masks, according to the CDC, as they can increase the risk of suffocation. The CDC's website states: "Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children younger than 2 years of age, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance."

That is why experts at Nationwide Children's Hospital are asking the new cottage industry of mask makers to avoid marketing masks to parents of babies, writing: "These products (infant masks, masks attached to pacifiers, etc.) may pose more harm than benefit in terms of safety for children under the age of 2 years old."

FEATURED VIDEO

2. Does my child need to wear a mask to go outside?

It depends. If you've got an older child and you're hanging out in your own backyard a mask isn't necessary, but if you're taking your child on the bus or into a grocery store they are recommended.

The CDC wants people to wear masks when they are in a community setting, not to avoid catching COVID-19 but to avoid getting other people sick. "A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but it may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others," the CDC's guidance notes.

Or, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put it this week, "it protects others more than it protects you because it prevents you from breathing or speaking moistly on them."

Because children do not seem to get as sick as adults when they have COVID-19 they can unknowingly be carriers. The best way to protect our kids and our communities is to keep our children home, but if you absolutely must take your child out into your community a mask can protect the vulnerable.

3. Does my child have to wear a mask if we go out?

In some parts of the United States, local governments are requiring citizens to wear masks when they leave their homes, but the CDC's statement on face masks is only a recommendation.

Some kids, especially preschool-age children, will not keep a mask on their face. If that's the case for your child, wearing one will increase the likelihood that they will touch their face. As experts recommend keeping hands away from faces, anything that's going to make your kid touch their face even more isn't a good idea.

For more information on how to create a DIY mask as per the CDC recomendations, click here.






News
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.