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2020 Mar

Water Safety

Take time now to review safety rules with your family.

Some of you know that Peter and I lost our daughter, Sierra, in a drowning accident in 1990. Sierra was 2 1/2, the same age as Gabriella, the little girl whose photo appears on page 6, when she drowned last summer.

There is nothing worse than losing a child. Regardless of the circumstances, every parent who loses a child feels overwhelming guilt and a sense of loss so deep it defies words. Sierra died 30 years ago this summer, and I think about her every day and miss her with all my heart.

When a friend approached me about doing an article in Tidewater Family about drowning prevention, I knew it would bring up the grief that I carry deep within. But this topic is too important for me to avoid based on my own sad experience. Drowning is an incredible epidemic that threatens children of all ages. Giving kids swimming lessons and teaching them self-rescue skills has lifesaving consequences.

Programs like Infant Swimming Resource teach babies and toddlers skills to survive falling into a body of water. Swimming lessons are also available at the Y and local rec centers. But nothing takes the place of supervision: constant attentive supervision of children around any body of water. Sierra drowned in an above-ground pool during a party when no one was looking.

One tool that would have saved her life is a simple card called a Water Watcher card. You can download it from safekids.org. Print it on cardboard, laminate it, and use it every time you are with kids around water. The idea is the adult holding the card agrees to watch the water for a defined period of time. When his turn ends, he gives the card to another adult who watches the water. It’s a simple way to ensure all children are safe at all times.

Summer will be here before we know it. Take the time now to review safety rules with your kids—from toddler to teen. Do a safety check in your home and talk to your kids about practicing safe behaviors. In fact, the topic of safety should be an ongoing discussion between you and your kids.

Neither Gabriella’s family nor mine want any other parent to go through the pain of losing a child. Take steps today to ensure your kids are safe around water, in the home, in public places, and in the car.

And do me a favor. In memory of Sierra and Gabriella, please give your child a huge hug today and tell her how much you love her. Knowing that a few extra hugs will be happening around Tidewater this month already makes me feel better.

Peggy Sijswerda

Peggy Sijswerda is the editor and co-publisher of Tidewater Family and Tidewater Women magazines. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from Old Dominion University and is the author of Still Life with Sierra, a travel memoir. Peggy also freelances for a variety of regional, national, and international magazines.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com

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