Mom Who Investigates Drownings Gives Water Safety Tips For Kids

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These ten water safety tips come from a mom who has 25 years of experience in the aquatics industry — and they are so practical

Natalie Livingston knows a lot about how drownings happen. She’s currently an aquatics safety consultant, and in her 25 years in the aquatics industry, she’s been everything from a lifeguard to a water park manager. She’s also mom to two kids and knows how easy it can be to get distracted or simply become lax with the rules around water.

Recently, she was at a pool party for her daughter’s softball team and she heard the disconnect between how much parents care about keeping their kids safe from drowning, but how little they know about how to practically do so on a day-t0-day basis.

“I was listening to the moms and realizing they had good intentions, but had no education on what can actually happen or things that contribute to a drowning event,” Livingston told Scary Mommy. “I went home and just started writing and came up with ten things.”

Livingston published her 10 water safety tips on the Facebook page Aquatics Tribe, which educates the aquatics industry. It quickly went viral, netting 5,400 likes, 1,300 comments, and 28,000 shares. Livingston says that as of today, it’s been viewed 3.1 million times.

The water safety tips aren’t the same old tips you are used to reading every single summer — while those tips are great, they don’t take into account a lot of what professionals know, or, specifically what Livingston has learned during her long career of investigating drowning incidents.

“I investigate drownings,” the post begins. “I understand the realities of what can happen, often so quickly and quietly. I read a lot about water safety and tips telling parents paying attention to their children and not being 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.”

The post opens with a tip that is incredibly practical, but one we hadn’t heard of before: give your kids a safety briefing every time you’re about to be near water, and it’s easy to do if you have the talk while you’re applying sun screen.

What should you cover in your safety briefing?

“I outline where they can swim, jump in, how they can jump in, and anything else safety related,” she writes. “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… but sometimes aquatic centers, waterparks, beaches, and pools look so fun and enticing, that it is easy to forget… 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!”

We think that is brilliant, and also easy.

Another great tip Livingston shares has to do with water depth. Your kid should not only know their height, but the height of their airway, so that they know which parts of a pool are safe for them to swim. Pool rules should have more to do with height and swim skill than with age.

“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,” she explains. “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 4ft 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 to make good decisions and helps them to 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.”

Another rule? Teach your kid how to escape if a weaker swimmer grabs onto them and pulls them under. Being able to get away not only saves your kid, but allows them to get help for the struggling swimmer, too.

“I have taught, and I am still teaching my kids how to get away if someone grabs onto them,” she writes. “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), and tuck (use your arms and legs to push away) – and then yell for an adult immediately to help the other person.”

She also staunchly advises against using arm floats or tubes as safety devices in the water — they can in fact lead to drownings.

And don’t forget the importance of swim lessons for kids and CPR lessons for adults.

We asked Livingston what the single most important thing is when it comes to preventing drowning. Here’s what she said:

“We need to educate our kids on the dangers of water. Not in a way to create anxiety, but in a way they can really understand. Kids make better decisions when they are informed too. Layers are so important!”

When she says layers, she explains, she means layers of water safety. If parents are educated, and children are educated, and lifeguards are educated, and people who manage swimming areas are educated, risk goes down. And kids who are educated not only make themselves safer, they can help others in the water by being another set of eyes.

How does Natalie feel about her viral post? She’s happy it’s being shared, but that’s not all.

“It highlights a huge need,” she told Scary Mommy. “My page was originally focused on providing support and ideas to Aquatics Professionals, but this post was in my heart so I posted it. Now, seeing how many people have shared and interacted with the post has shown me the huge need for practical water safety advice that everyone can utilize.”

To meet that need, she’s created a new page, Aquatics Safety Connection. And with that, we’re guessing she’s going to save even more lives with her practical advice, from one mom to another.

Hear what our real-life Scary Mommies, Keri and Ashley, have to say about this when they give their (always real) thoughts in this episode of our Scary Mommy Speaks podcast.

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