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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

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Little Swimmer

Pool safety should start early

ABC Action News Anchor

As a journalist, I’ve covered countless news stories involving kids drowning.
I can remember the tragedies case by case. Imagine, a father falling asleep with his six-month-old on his lap. The baby gets up, crawls through the doggie door and drowns in the family pool.

Drowning is the leading cause of death for children in the state of Florida. That’s right. More kids under the age of 4 die from unintentional drowning than from any other cause, according to the Florida Department of Health. It only takes an infant second and a toddler not much longer to drown.

So when I gave birth to the greatest blessing in my life, my daughter Samantha, my mind went into overdrive. How do I protect my little angel especially when it could happen when you least expect it. Sammie, as she likes to be called, could be spending time over a friend’s house for a pool party and tragedy could strike.

That’s why my husband Dave and I made a critical decision for our family. Sammie was not even six months, not even walking, when we signed her up for swimming lessons. We decided to choose a swim instructor at our health club in Harbour Island.

Perhaps I am a little more paranoid because of all the stories I’ve covered, but I urged my husband to invest the extra money in one-on-one sessions. Another critical decision for us was me not attending. Since I was so nervous at just the thought of my baby in a pool, we decided it may be better if Dave took the reins. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard and also is certified as a professional dive instructor. Bottom line, my husband is very comfortable in the water. He felt that even though Sammie was so little, she could sense my nervousness and that would affect her lessons. I know that may sound a little too cautious, but we had read children can sense things at a very young age. I did not want Sammie to have any reservations about the water. So, every week Dave took her to swimming classes.

By the time I went, she was a few months older and I was so surprised! She could actually kick her legs and float on her back with some help. She seemed to love the water! It was such a sense of relief and pride, but we still had a long way to go. I wanted Sammie to be a swimmer. We made sure we never missed a lesson. She had them twice a week for several months. By the time Sammie turned 2, she was swimming on her own!

Here’s how passionate I am about teaching kids how to swim as soon as possible, especially here in Florida. My sister-in-law Caroline Stein, recently moved here from Boston. My nephews Jakey, Kami and Aydin, who I love like my own, are young, ages, four, three and a few months, and did not know how to swim. The first piece of advice I gave Caroline, was to enroll the boys in some type of swimming class.

She was surprised because in Boston there was no real rush to learn. Living in Florida, we need to be proactive since every 100 yards there is a pool, lake or some body of water. So she signed the boys up for swim school. Remember, the lessons do not have to be long. Jakey and Kami went every weekend, with each lesson lasting 20 minutes. Instructors typically don’t want young kids in the water for too long for a variety of reasons, including safety, their body temperature and water intake.

I find it amazing how quickly kids can learn to swim! Now Sammie, who recently turned 4, and her cousins, can pretty much hold their own in the water. Now we limit the classes to the summer months instead of year-round. Of course, this doesn’t mean we can leave them unattended. However, knowing our children are swimmers adds a layer of protection. Kids are often compared to sponges in the sense that they are able to soak in everything. So why not open the door to this life-saving lesson? For me, the peace of mind is priceless.

Sarina Fazan is an Emmy award-winning journalist who anchors the 6 and 11p .m. on the weekends at ABC Action News.

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