Are you a ‘buy every child safety product on the market’ parent or a ‘well, a few bumps won’t kill them’ parent? Is every table in your house surrounded with foam padding or do you silently curse when you are visiting someone with an indecipherable toilet lock?
We all want to keep kids safe, but the huge range of options can be overwhelming, and often inspire only the feeling of, ‘are you kidding me?!?!‘ But what happens if you don’t buy every child safety device and your child is hurt? The cost-benefit analysis that all of us process in our head usually has a bottom line of ‘could I live with myself if this product would have kept my child alive but I didn’t buy it?‘ When it comes to pool safety how do you know what is enough and what is too much?
Keeping kids safe is not for the faint of heart. But then again, neither is parenting. I admit I’m more at the ‘well, I’ve cautioned them over and over and maybe they have to learn that if they throw themselves at their sibling and land on the corner of the (padded) sofa, they might end up with a black eye’ (that would be my child last week). Did I want them to learn that lesson the hard way? Heck no!!!! Did I diligently alternate applying ice and Arnica for the next 2 hours trying to control the damage while wallowing in a sea of agony and guilt? Of course!
I may be relaxed about some dangers, but I have always been hyper-vigilant when it comes to water safety. After all, a child can drown in 2 minutes in 2 inches of water. It’s not a black eye were talking about, it’s permanent brain damage or death. The great news is that some excellent organizations have taken the guesswork out of pool safety. The best resource is the website www.poolsafely.gov developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. At a minimum, if you have a pool, you should have the following:
- A stand-alone isolationist fence with a self-closing and self-locking gate – something that a child can’t climb. Make sure it keeps the pool separate from the house, meaning a fence around your back yard isn’t enough. I also had a non-negotiable rule, no child went down the steps to where the pool stood (with a fence) without me. Period. And yes, I explained the possible consequence was death, which meant they would never see me again. Young children don’t understand death, they do understand never seeing mom again, and that’s scarier than death.
- A pool alarm and/or door alarm. I’m a belts-and-braces girl when it comes to water, I had the alarm AND the fence. I’d have had guards patrolling 24/7 if I could have gotten away with it.
- Anti-entrapment drain covers should be in place and compliant with current law. I’d also have a rule that no one touches, looks at, even thinks of going close to any pool drain. Ever. Or you’ll end up like that woman with the belly ring that hooked on the drain. Shudder.
- Pool covers should be checked regularly and in good working order. If you have a winter cover that is fixed, make sure a small child can’t shimmy underneath. That means, if you can lift the cover and see more than about 2 inches of space, some determined child can probably get under. Seriously. I made mine try and they got much further in than I would have thought possible. We adjusted the winter cover accordingly and then I jumped on it to make sure it held my weight. My children found that very entertaining.
- Learn CPR – because accidents do happen.
- And finally, have your child in swim lessons, preferably parent-tot lessons from the time they are one (the age the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends). And make sure they are learning water safety rules.
All good if the pool is yours, but what about visiting grandparents or friends who don’t have all a fence or alarm? You can also bring an alarm with you. Safety Turtle is a great option. Most importantly though, walk your child to the unfamiliar pool and explain why they can’t go near the pool without you, and then be extra vigilant, because the lure of the pool will be strong.
Having access to a pool can instill a life-long love of water and a strong understanding of how to be safe around water in your child, just make sure they live long enough to enjoy it.