Top 10 Water Safety Tips

With warmer weather finally here, many people are heading outdoors. If your outdoor plans include being around water, whether swimming, fishing, or boating, be sure to follow these top ten water safety tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can find these and other information on how to be safe around water on the CDC website.

  1. DO learn to swim.If you like to have a good time doing water activities, being a strong swimmer is a must.
  2. DO take a friend along.Even though you may be a good swimmer, you never know when you may need help. Having friends around is safer and just more fun!
  3. DO know your limits.Watch out for the “too’s”—too tired, too cold, too far from safety, too much sun, too much hard activity.
  4. DO swim in supervised (watched) areas only,and follow all signs and warnings.
  5. DO wear a life jacket when boating, jet skiing, water skiing, rafting, or fishing.
  6. DO stay alert to currents.They can change quickly! If you get caught in a strong current, don’t fight it. Swim parallel to the shore until you have passed through it. Near piers, jetties (lines of big rocks), small dams, and docks, the current gets unpredictable and could knock you around. If you find it hard to move around, head to shore. Learn to recognize and watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents — water that is a weird color, really choppy, foamy, or filled with pieces of stuff.
  7. DO keep an eye on the weather.If you spot bad weather (dark clouds, lighting), pack up and take the fun inside.
  8. DON’T mess around in the water.Pushing or dunking your friends can get easily out of hand.
  9. DON’T dive into shallow water.If you don’t know how deep the water is, don’t dive.
  10. DON’T float where you can’t swim.Keep checking to see if the water is too deep, or if you are too far away from the shore or the poolside.

Photo © 2016 by Roman Boed under Creative Commons license.

Help with 5 Tough Questions About Teens, Alcohol, and Drugs

With marijuana legalization legislation pending in the General Assembly, families may need to have more discussions about its use. While the proposed legislation would legalize marijuana for those over 21, Illinois PTA continues to follow the bill regarding parts that may affect those under 21, including drug education requirements, protections to prevent sales to those under 21, and expungement of criminal records of those convicted of possession.

Great Schools! published an article answering five tough questions about teens, alcohol, and drugs. While many parents know the basic facts to convey to their child about these issues, there are several nuances that parents may struggle with how to address:

  1. Does talking to my child about drugs or alcohol get them thinking about something they’re otherwise oblivious to?
  2. Should I offer a safe ride home no matter what?
  3. Should I share my own history?
  4. Should my kid learn about drinking at home?
  5. How can I tell if my kid is smoking pot?

The article answers each of these difficult questions with help from experts, and these are important discussions to have with your child. As Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) notes, one in five teens binge drink, but only one in 100 parents think it’s happening.

Sun Safety

With the weather finally warming here in Illinois, families are spending more time outdoors. Today’s post on sun safety comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC). It is also available in Spanish.

The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Follow these recommendations to help protect yourself and your family.

Shade

You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.

Clothing

When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.

If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.

Hat

For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.

If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.

Sunglasses

Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.

Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.

Sunscreen

Put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back. And remember, sunscreen works best when combined with other options to prevent UV damage.

How sunscreen works. Most sunscreen products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor.

SPF. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15.

Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

Expiration date. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

Cosmetics.Some makeup and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they do not have at least SPF 15, don’t use them by themselves.

Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.

 

EncourageMe Program Helps Kids Develop Supportive Friendships

It’s not often that a Girl Scout Gold Award project receives national recognition, but that’s what is happening for Atlanta, GA Girl Scout Avery B. For her Gold Award (similar to the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout rank), she created the EncourageMe program—a program designed to help teach older elementary school students about supportive friendships.

The program consists of four separate sessions, each with a printable lesson plan, two video lessons, discussion questions about the videos, and activities and games that relate to the topic. The four sessions focus on:

  • Communication
  • Support
  • Trust
  • Conflict

The program is designed to be used in the classroom, but could be used as a PTA event with four stations or as an after school program.

The sessions were all reviewed by a school psychologist, and elementary school counselor, and a middle school counselor to ensure that they covered appropriate skills effectively. She has successfully used the program at four different elementary schools.

Avery B spoke at the Georgia School Counselors Association meeting in 2018 about the EncourageMe program, and it has been featured in the newsletters of both the Florida and Illinois School Counselors Associations. Check out the EncourageMe program as a way for your PTA to help kids develop supportive friendships.