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Keeping Your Kids Safe Around Water

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 (KCEN) -- From sun up, to sun down, Terri Young is in the pool. For the past 35 years she has been teaching hundreds of kids how to swim each summer.

"If they don't know how to swim, they really don't need to be around water," she said. "Because when parents aren't watching that's when an accident happens, and it only takes a split second."

She's known around Killeen as a tough instructor, but that's the way parents like it. "We heard about Ms. Terri and we switched. Sometimes  you can't keep your eyes on them 24/7, especially when they get older, and they need to learn how to be more independent," Sandra Rangel said. "You need to be strict on them so they know its not just fun, it can be harmful."

Sandra's seven-year-old son, Matthew, is currently in Terri's class, and she says he's already showing a great deal of improvement in just a few weeks. We caught up with Terri, and in between her coaching, she shared a few tips that parents can enforce, or bad habits they can break to keep their kids safe around water.

  1. Enroll your child in swimming lessons. Terri says having a professional teach them the proper way to swim could one day save their life.
  2. Don't encourage your children to jump into water if they don't know how to swim. You might think it's okay because you are there to catch them. Terri says children will get used to jumping in, and might do it when no adults are around.
  3. Practice with your children on holding their breath. You can do this out of the water at home. The longer they can hold their breath, the longer you have to save them.
  4. Make it a rule they have to tell you when they get in the water ... every time... this will keep you aware of where they are.
  5. If your child is pushed, thrown or falls into water teach them to keep their eyes open so they can see, turn around, and go back where they came from. This is the fastest way out of the water.
  6. Teach your children how to float on their backs, flat like a boat. Terri says this allows them time to catch their breath if they can't get out immediately.
  7. Don't become dependent on things like floaties, life jackets or goggles. These things will not be there in emergency situations and children need to learn to swim without them.
  8. Practice, practice, practice. The more they practice swimming the better prepared they will be when an accident happens.
  9. Don't treat swimming as a treat. Being in water is serious. The fun comes after the child knows how to swim.
  10. Never swim alone. Even if you think your child is a great swimmer, always have an adult with them.   

 While she strongly urges parents to put their kids in swimming lessons at ages three and up, she says if a family cannot afford the classes then they should go to parks or swimming pools where trained life guards are on staff. But even then, she says the children should be watched very closes.

According to the American Red Cross 10 people die every day from accidental drownings in the U.S. Of those, 20% are children under 14 years old.


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