After many lessons, my six-year-old daughter is becoming a proficient swimmer. She can tread water, retrieve toys at the bottom of the pool, and find her way to the wall after jumping into the deep end. But there’s a skill she still needs to learn, and it’s one that I don’t think her instructors will be teaching. That is: what to do if a struggling swimmer grabs onto her.
Water safety educator Natalie Livingston writes in a Facebook post that she sees this scenario all the time in drowning events — swimmers who are fine on their own getting pushed down by those trying to stay above water. She’s teaching her own kids what to do if they’re ever in this situation and explains that there are three things to remember: “Suck, duck, tuck.”
Suck in air if you can (get a breath)
Duck under the water (the struggling person doesn’t want to go there)
Tuck (use your arms and legs to push away) — and then yell for an adult immediately to help the other person
Drowning swimmers can be dangerous, which is why it’s recommended that if you ever spot someone having trouble in the water, you should “throw, don’t go.” That means you should toss something like a kick board or beach ball to the person struggling instead of jumping into water yourself.
If you’re watching children in the pool, remind them to keep their hands off each other. My husband had to do this the other day. While our daughter and her friends were swimming, they were constantly hugging and trying to give piggyback rides. With them all congregated together, splashing and squealing, it would be tough to notice if anyone was struggling.
And tell your kids to be careful about grabbing onto adults in the pool, too. Livingston notes that they “can be weaker swimmers and may have a hard time with them hanging on.” It’s best to give everyone their space.