Common Ground: Keeping the fear out of the water

It was Belinda Givens’ own childhood fear of water that convinced her to put her three children, a niece and a nephew into a swim and safety class this month.

Givens, of Baton Rouge, recalled panicking in the water as a youngster and avoiding pools out of fear.

“I don’t ever want to have my children feeling that way,” she told me. “I thought that with them being so young, swimming lessons would help them.”

Givens took a swim class during middle school, but felt too afraid to follow the lessons or even to place her head under the water for fear of drowning.

Her two boys, ages 3 and 7, and her daughter, 6, don’t have that problem, she said.

“They jump right into the water,” she said. “They love it.”

With so many events centered around pools and water parks, it’s crucial for children to water get safety and swim lessons early, said Kristen Hogan, marketing director for the Capital Area YMCA.

Ten people drown every day and more than one-in-five fatal drowning victims are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

News headlines point to some of the tragedies and near-tragedies associated with water.

Last month, a 2-year-old boy fell into a pond near his home and was rescued by an Ascension Parish Sheriff’s sergeant. It happened while the mother was upstairs; she was unaware her two sons had opened the front door.

Studies show that drowning incidents are among the silent killers of children.

Most young children who have drowned in a pool were last seen at home, were in the care of one or both parents and had been out of sight for a few minutes, according to the CDC.

Those are just some of the lessons that Givens is taking to heart before she puts a pool in her backyard.

“I want them to have the swim lessons so they can be ready,” she said.

Givens, who has a family membership with the YMCA, is also helping herself out by taking water aerobics classes. She wears a floating belt. Though her children’s swim teacher has invited her to take lessons, she has politely declined.

In 2013, the YMCA of the Capital Area taught 65,000 people to swim, including 40,000 during the summer, Hogan said.

This year, the program has awarded 50 swimming scholarships, Hogan said. Along with supporting swimming lessons, the YMCA is also inviting families to donate new and gently used swimsuits for needy children in the community. All nine locations of the Y will accept donations, Hogan said.

Givens said she will continue to support her children and her niece and nephew’s efforts to swim.

“I faithfully have my kids there,” she said.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.