I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in the water – in fact, all of my favorite memories have happened there. At just 10 months old, I had my first swim lesson, and I can’t recall a time when swimming didn’t feel as familiar to me as walking. Of course, in the moment, it never occurred to me that what I was learning could potentially save my life or the lives of others around me.
Wherever you choose to swim, there’s something about the water that is so inviting. To me, the feeling of being weightless is empowering and makes me feel invincible. To children, it’s enticing with its ripples and splashes, so it’s no wonder why they are curious. However, the amazing memories and the opportunity to build my life around my love of water wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t learn how to respect it at a young age.
The water also has a potentially dark and tragic side that too many parents have seen. Tragically, drowning remains the No. 1 cause of unintentional injury-related death among children 1 to 4 years old. Every day, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three children in the United States fall victim to the lethal dangers that are associated with water-related accidents, leaving millions of families questioning what they could have done to prevent the unthinkable.
Practice, practice, practice
The last 14 months have been some of the most challenging for families with young children. Parents have worked tirelessly to navigate this new normal with remote work conditions, virtual learning and more. Although our lives have been on hold, I’m here to remind you that the risk of drowning has not.
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The coronavirus pandemic has created knowledge gaps for many children at school, but what families don’t realize is that it has also created a gap in water safety education that has increased the risk of drowning over the last year.
So, I’d like to share my best piece of advice to help families avoid the unthinkable this summer, and it’s something I do every single day: practice. Learning the foundations of how to swim and then practicing them over and over has made me into the strong swimmer I am today. Swim lessons are the best defense against drowning, cutting the risk by as much as 88%.
It’s also worth noting that many swim lesson providers are doing everything possible to operate safely in order to reduce drowning incidents, such as using updated safety protocols and ventilation systems and bringing awareness to the fact that chlorinated water should inactivate the coronavirus, according to the CDC.
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Please, do not leave water safety up to chance. Instead, enroll in swim lessons to provide your child with the lifesaving skill of learning how to swim and continue to create memories for your family that will last a lifetime.
Ryan Murphy is a World Champion swimmer, three-time Olympic gold medalist, water safety advocate, and brand ambassador of Goldfish Swim School.