Parents should teach children to avoid pools like they avoid cars: experts
MONTREAL -- A summer of record-breaking heat coupled with a global pandemic is a recipe for disaster when it comes to child drownings in Quebec.
Generally, the better the weather is, the more drownings there are per year because there are more people in, around and on the water, according to Raynald Hawkins, the executive director of the Lifesaving Society's Quebec branch (a nonprofit that aims to promote safe interactions with water).
Data shows the main culprit for child drownings in Quebec in 2019 was distracted supervision or a lack of supervision altogether. Specifically, 87 per cent of drownings in the province last year occurred because of inadequate supervision.
Hawkins explained that part of the problem is children having direct access to bodies of water – pools or otherwise.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s an above-ground pool, or in-ground pool, or semi in-ground pool, or inflatable pool,” Hawkins said. “The point is kids cannot have a direct access from the house to the backyard pool.”
But beyond that, distracted supervision from parents is also a major problem. In normal times, distractions include checking phones, reading books, or quickly ducking indoors to make snacks or to answer the landline, Hawkins explained.
But with parents working from home amid the pandemic, they may choose to multitask.
A recent poll by Allstate Canada shows that 52 per cent of Quebec parents who own or are thinking of getting a pool are planning on working from home at least occasionally this summer, 43 per cent of which say they will supervise their children in the pool while they do so.
“This (will be) a big distraction for the parents,” Hawkins said.
The Lifesaving Society and Allstate Canada both strongly advise against distracted supervision.
“When you have a backyard pool or when you take the decision to work at your cottage and you’re close to the water… You don’t want to combine work and supervising the kids during their bathing and swimming activities,” Hawkins said.
In order to protect children from drowning, Hawkins said as soon as they can walk, they should be taught to avoid pools and other bodies of water the way they’re taught to avoid cars.
“You cannot cross the street without mom and dad... You cannot go near the water without mom and dad," Hawkins said. "And when you want to go in the water, you need to wear this flotation device.”
Hawkins said that by using this method, children get into the habit of asking their parents to put on their floaties any time they want to play near the water.
This is especially important because a lot of drownings take place independently of swimming activities, Hawkins said.
“Parents try to find their kids and they find them in the bottom of the swimming pool,” Hawkins said.
Parents are encouraged to use this website to self-evaluate their pool's safety.