Why Every Parent Should Be a Water Watcher
5 Simple Tips that Could Save a Child's Life
Hot weather and summer vacation means Texas kids are headed to the water. Sadly, it also means more opportunity for tragedy.
Summer has barely begun and Cook Children's has already seen 24 children at the medical center this year for drowning, with 15 occurring at a swimming pool.
Dana Walraven, community health outreach manager for Cook Children’s, stresses adults supervision of children at all times. She calls the parents who are in charge of lifeguarding the kids a Water Watcher.
So what does it mean to be a “Water Watcher?”
An adult is within arms-reach, no distractions, while children are in and around all water. After 15 minutes, another responsible adult takes over. This allows everyone to enjoy the party while ensuring the kids are being properly watched. It is especially helpful at parties or around the pool or lake.
Water Watcher tags are available to any person or group who will use them or would like to distribute them. To receive a Water Watcher Tag, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leslie Zvitt works at Cook Children’s as the Senior Epic Business Intelligence Developer and is the mother of two children, ages 12 and 8 years old.
Zvitt makes sure a Water Watcher is on hand for all of her pool parties and makes sure adults are supervising the pool with undistracted attention.
"Our kids love to invite friends over for swim parties, and often times it’s a relief to us, as parents, for the kids to occupy themselves with their friends, while the adults visit and have grown-up discussions," Zvitt said. "However, we still have a very real responsibility to keep them safe from harm; after all, a pool is no substitute for a babysitter. Since I found out about Water Watchers, I’ve been applying some simple guidelines for our pool parties that are really easy to follow, and make all of us safer as a result."
Zvitt's Water Watcher program consists of a few simple steps we can all follow to protect our kids’ lives:
- Create a sign-up sheet. Use a plain sheet of paper or draft a document on your computer, and create a two-column table. In the first column, write down the timeslots that will cover the duration of your party. Label the second column “Water Watcher,” where the volunteers will write down their names for the timeslot they choose. Zvitt uses Signup Genius, a free online site that allows you to set up a signup sheet in advance. You can choose timeslots at intervals for each of your attendees to sign up for, and you can either send your invite list an email, or copy the link into a Facebook event or other invitation format.
- Enlist the help of other parents. Tell other moms and dads about the Water Watcher concept at the very beginning of the party. Encourage them to volunteer for a shift, whether it’s 10 or 15 minutes or longer, depending on the length of your party and the number of adults available. Have them write their name into one of the rows on your sign-up sheet. Inform them that during their shift, they are to wear the Water Watcher card around their wrist to indicate that they are the main parent in charge of watching over the kids. This is an important responsibility and that parent should be focused on his or her job. But, this doesn’t mean other parents aren’t able to help. The more they can help, the better off, and safer, everyone will be.
- Set a recurring alarm. One of Zvitt's must-haves at any pool party is music! Stationed on her patio is a docking station for iPhones which she uses to stream music. But she has a recurring alarm to interrupt the music and alert everyone of a shift change. There are free interval timer apps available for various mobile devices. You can set up intervals of any length (i.e. 15 minutes). At the end of each interval the music is interrupted with an alarm sound of your choice, signifying the next Water Watcher rotation. But you don’t have to get fancy. You can simply use the built-in alarm function set on your phone for each interval you plan on changing shifts.
- Make sure the adults know they will be involved at your party. It takes only seconds for a drowning to occur, so it’s very important that this responsibility is taken seriously so that all our kids stay out of harm’s way! “Many times, the parents I talk to about being a Water Watcher nod and agree, but then put a comment out there like, 'Well, my spouse will be there and will probably be watching the pool the whole time' or 'there will be plenty of parents there watching,'" Zvitt said. "I have to be mindful of how I phrase my response to not sound rude, but I kindly inform them that when 'everyone's watching,' NO ONE is watching." The adult in charge has to make the decision to focus on all the kids, rather than socialize.
- Did we mention it's the adults watching the kids in the pool? The Water Watcher job is one for a grownup. They are expected to stay sober and focused during their 15 minute shift or if they are the only one out there, to stay alert the whole time. This isn't a job for kids, even older children. "Teens can be easily distracted and they may not have the judgement skills to handle the job," Walraven said. "If there's a problem in the pool, a child may have trouble getting another child out of the pool. And this is not a responsibility for a young person. A drowning, even if not fatal, could scar a child for life if something happened if he or she were in charge. This is definitely a job for a grownup."
Along with in pools, Cook Children's has treated children for drownings at the bathub, ponds and even buckets. None of the three fatal drownings in 2019 have occurred in a pool. Please join us in our drowning prevention efforts. Together, we are asking everyone to Lifeguard Your Child. Learn more at lifeguardyourchild.org.
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