Summer holidays bring fond memories of basking in the sun and spending time in the sea for many of us. Water-play is a brilliant and fun activity for all ages, but it’s vital that as parents we understand the associated risks. Whether you come across a river or lake in the woods, or are at the ocean’s edge on the beach – both you and your children need to know how to stay safe around the water.

This quick guide will outline some important aspects of preventing drowning and protecting your children when they are in the water.

Know the Signs

When people drown in real life, it doesn’t look like it does in the movies. Aquatic distress is the term given to the point where people shout for help, but often they don’t get a chance to do so before they begin to drown. Sadly, in many cases, drowning happens silently.

This is an incredibly important fact as it essentially means someone could drown right next to you, and unless you knew this, you wouldn’t notice until it was too late. It can be easy for parents to rely on listening out for their children, but it’s never safe to take your eyes off your children when they are near or in open bodies of water.

Signs of drowning include having the head tilted back and the mouth open at a low level or even under the water, and being in a vertical position in the water. Some people look like they are climbing a ladder and others may have a panicked expression. If your child can’t respond to you if you talk or call out to them, they need help immediately.

Educate Your Children

Education is a powerful tool when it comes to preventing drowning. Teach your children to stay safe by telling them what the flags on the beach mean, and how to identify rip currents and other dangerous situations. This could be the difference between an adventurous child deciding to go off and explore or check with you first – and could save their life.

As well as knowing what to look out for, it’s vital for children to be taught how to react if they get in trouble. If they are swimming at the beach, remind them to raise one arm above their heads if they need rescuing or begin to feel too exhausted to stay above the water.

Regular swimming lessons are brilliant for children of all ages, but no matter how much of a strong swimmer they are it’s still best to have a lifejacket or other buoyancy aid to hand.

Be aware that in rivers and lakes, there are often reeds and plants which can become tangled in the legs and feet, and in the open ocean they could get dragged offshore and become exhausted – if they have a lifejacket or a bodyboard, at least they can float and keep their head above water.

Never Skip Supervision

Even as adults, no one should enter an open body of water alone or without anyone knowing where they are. Don’t be tempted to let your children explore areas where there are open bodies of water without supervision, even if they don’t plan on going swimming. What if they trip and fall into the water?

Set strict family rules on how to behave around water, especially large open bodies of water such as the ocean. Remind them frequently of the importance of enjoying the water safely, and help them feel proud for being responsible and safe.

Learn First Aid

Knowing what to do in the worst-case scenario is so important. Although it doesn’t bear thinking about, learning to do paediatric CPR is something every parent should do, just in case. It’s also a good idea to teach children basic first aid and CPR, so they too know what to do in an emergency.

Stay Vigilant

Although drowning is a scary subject, so long as you stay vigilant and on top of water safety there’s no reason to stop your family having fun in the water. Once you know the risks, you can be reassured that you are doing everything you can to negate them and be well on your way to family days of water-filled fun.