Turning the tides on child drowning
Rebecca Wear Robinson
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Multi-tasking and Water

by Rebecca Wear Robinson on February 22, 2012


If they ever add ‘multi-tasking’ as an Olympic sport I’m a shoe-in for a gold medal. I can cook dinner, talk to a friend, feed the cat, let the dog out, check e-mail and answer my kid’s questions at the same time without missing a beat. It’s such a normal part of any mom’s day we don’t even question the process.

But then I did question the process. I heard about a famous psychology study that pointed out that humans can only concentrate, really concentrate, on one thing at a time. A number of people were assigned to count the number of times a group of professional basketball players passed the ball to each other. They did very well, they really concentrated on the task at hand. They didn’t even notice the gorilla that walked right through the middle of the circle of players. Yes, a gorilla. The point is, humans can do many things at one time, but we are only capable of concentrating on one thing at a time. In other words, I may move seamlessly between all the tasks listed above, but I am only concentrating on one task at a time. I am either cooking OR feeding the cat OR really engaged in my conversation, not not all at the same time.

When it comes to supervising kids around water, we need to remember that if we are multi-tasking, even pleasurable activities like texting a friend, flipping through a magazine, or catching up on local gossip, we aren’t concentrating on what our kid is doing. Not really. But it’s hard to concentrate intently for very long, our minds wander and our eyes wander, it’s human nature.

So, don’t beat yourself up that you can’t stare at your child intently for 4 hours at the pool on a sunny afternoon. But do be aware of your physical limitations and use the Water Watcher system. If there is more than one adult, assign a ‘Water Watcher’. Give that person a hat, whistle, towel, badge – anything to remind them that for 10 minutes their only job is to watch the kids in the water. Then switch to the next adult. If you are on your own, create breaks in concentration for yourself. Get everyone out of the pool every 30 minutes – make it a drink, bathroom or snack break, but basically it’s a way to push the ‘reset’ button on your concentration. And no, you can’t multi-task, put down the magazine.

Multi-tasking is a hard habit for anyone to break, but as a hard-core multi-tasking addict I can tell you that it has one really nice fringe benefit. If I ‘must’ just sit by the pool and watch my kids play in the water instead of catch up on the nine zillion things that I ‘should’ be doing, I actually relax and enjoy myself, and that makes the rest of the day better for all of us.

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