June is National Safety Month – a time meant to act as a reminder that we must address the “what ifs” and “maybes” that life sometimes throws our way. Although it’s uncomfortable and scary to talk about, as parents, we have to overcome that fear so our kids understand how to stay safe. And because it’s summer and peak lake season, and we have our big annual trip to Lake of the Ozarks next week, I thought there was no better time to hone in on water safety specifically. So I’m super excited to partner with COUNTRY Financial to do just that!
Going to the lake was a big part of my life as a kid. We would head to Missouri every summer and spend days boating, swimming and doing all kinds of crazy water activities. I made some of my most cherished memories on those trips, but now as an adult, I can also see the extreme risk we were at spending so much time in and near water.
When you’re one of those families like mine that spends time at the lake, the safety aspect of it all can quickly fade away. It’s just very easy to get into the mindset that your kids are comfortable around water so they’re going to be fine no matter what. I totally get it, but having a plan for – God forbid – an accident, or at the least setting ground rules with your kids is never a bad idea. Taking these small steps can go a long way in protecting your family and giving you peace of mind. I know I feel a heck of a lot better heading to the lake with Zelda next week now.
So, today I have five key tips for water safety. Let’s dive in! (Pun intended because let’s keep this serious, but fun, shall we?)
1. Discuss Rules When You Arrive and Walk Through the Space Together
In the rush and excitement of arriving at the lake, it’s crucial to take a few minutes to walk through the rules and guidelines of the space with your kids. This way they know from the get go that you mean serious business. That said, you don’t want to scare them! Just be sure they understand these rules are for their own well being and safety. Take this time to ask them what they’re afraid of when it comes to the water and address those fears directly with solutions on how they can stay safe.
It’s also important to not assume your kids know the rules, even if they’ve been to the lake or around water before. Walk through the cabin, camping area or hotel with them. Take them over to the water and explain this is a place they can only go if they’re with an adult.
Something we’ve started doing with Zelda now that she’s gotten a little older is explaining that a life jacket must be worn past a certain point. No ifs ands or buts. We’ll then create an actual physical point to act as a visual reminder (marked by a bright piece of tape or piece of furniture or even something fun that makes kids excited to grab the jacket) that she knows she can’t go past. And if she wants to, she absolutely has to be wearing a life jacket or be with an adult.
During this initial discussion, the main thing is to really hit home the idea of staying away from the water without an adult. It gives kids a plan to follow, which is always a good thing to have mapped out, right?
2. Life Jacket Rules
Make it very clear that life jackets are essential for any kind of water activities. Explain to them just because they can swim, does not mean they shouldn’t have on a life jacket. Kids don’t realize that in the heat and sun we all get tired and the important role a life jacket plays when the exhaustion kicks in.
Like I mentioned, Zelda is always in a life jacket (here’s what we use for her) on the boat and a puddle jumper when she’s in the water. Which brings me to my next point: there are tons of different kinds of life jackets and requirements depending on what state you’re in. If you’re not sure where to start on this topic, this is an excellent resource.
Bottom line, life jackets are cool and can save your life. Let your kids know this and explain you want them to have fun, but so long as they’re being safe and an adult is always around. It’s not a bad idea to get yourself a life jacket, too!
3. Secure Any Point of Danger or Anxiety
This one is just as much for parents as it is for the safety of your kids. We had a little bit of a scare last year on our Ozarks trip when Zelda wandered down to the pathway leading to the dock by herself. Luckily we caught her, but my heart did stop for a minute. And it legitimately ruined two solid days of our vacation because I couldn’t stop worrying about something like that happening again. I was absolutely filled with anxiety from head to toe.
This year, to avoid that kind of thing from happening again, we’re installing a child gate so there’s no way she can access the dock without an adult. I highly recommend that whatever this moment is for you, whether it’s stairs or a pathway, secure it for both your own sanity and the safety of your child!
4. Boat Rules Must Be Followed
This one is pretty short and sweet. Boat rules must be followed. Period. No negotiation on this one. Tell your kids before even boarding the boat what the rules are and if they’re broken, then boating is out. There are also state-regulated boating rules that have to be followed, so make sure your family is aware of those as well. Some rules are meant not to be broken, and these are those kind of rules.
5. Sunscreen and Hydrate
Nothing ruins a weekend on the lake like a bad sunburn. And we’ve all been there. No one is too cool for sunscreen in my book, even the adults, so make sure to set a good example for the kiddos. Try to embrace shade as much as possible and keep kids covered with hats and towels when they’re not in the water. And of course, keep lots of bottled water on board so everyone stays hydrated.
As for sunscreen, I like to use at least 50 SPF. If you’re confused about what SPF means, it’s the amount of protection that specific sunblock offers. For example, if a sunblock is 50 SPF, then you have 50 times more protection than if you weren’t wearing it. This does not necessarily mean it lasts longer, though, so be sure to reapply every hour or so.
Hopefully this gets you started with having talks about safety with your kids. Although today’s post was just about water, there are lots of other areas to discuss like fire and tornado safety. For more info and easy-to-follow steps on having these conversations, check out this guide from COUNTRY Financial. Businesses like COUNTRY Financial are amazing resources to help prepare and protect your family from anything that comes your way – including a weekend at the lake.
Thank you to COUNTRY Financial for sponsoring this post. It’s partners like this that make documenting our journey possible.