Diving as a family is one of the most rewarding activities for any avid diver. Not only does scuba diving introduce your children to a whole world of adventure most other kids their age will never explore, but it also builds self-confidence, independence, self-esteem, and gives them a more global view on life. Adding children into your diving equation, however, also comes with additional responsibilities and considerations. Child divers are smaller, get colder faster, go through air quicker, and can be easily distracted. That said, children are also fast learners and super resilient. We’ve come up with the top 10 ways you can increase your child’s dive safety on every underwater family adventure you share.
1. Private Lessons
The best, most thorough way to get your child scuba certified is through private scuba lessons. Not only do private lessons give your child the one-on-one attention needed at a young age, but it also allows them to progress at their own pace, not feel rushed or intimidated, and usually provides the most flexible schedule. All things that will facilitate a young diver to feel more comfortable and confident in the water.
2. Take your time
A weekend-long Open Water certification course is NOT the course for a young diver. Children need extra time to fully understand the academics of diving and LOTS of time practicing in the pool before venturing into open water. A weekend-long course will be too fast-paced and will not adequately prepare a child for safely diving out of the confined water environment.
3. Purchase youth-specific dive gear
Many times, stress experienced while diving begins with ill-fitting equipment. If your mask is leaking because it does not fit properly, your BCD rides up because it is too big, or you get cold quickly because your wetsuit is too large, you may move from an uncomfortable diver to a panicked diver quickly. Since the design of most dive equipment is for adults, young divers can have a hard time finding gear that fits properly. It is well worth the extra cost to purchase youth-specific equipment to ensure your child is comfortable in the water. The more comfortable they are, the safer they will be.
4. Practice, practice, practice
The famous phrase “practice makes perfect” is very applicable for young divers. Again, the more comfortable your child becomes in the water, the safer they will be, and there is no better way to become comfortable than repetition. A great way to get more practice is through continuing education. Children can participate in many specialty programs, which will increase their dive skills and get them the repetitive dives they need to become proficient scuba divers.
5. Dive as often as possible
As stated in number four, practice makes perfect, and repetitive diving creates confident, strong, safe divers. This applies to both children and adults and is especially helpful when multiple dives are performed in a single day and over consecutive days. A family dive vacation is a perfect opportunity to get your kids underwater as much as possible.
6. Get them CPR/First Aid and Oxygen trained
CPR/First Aid and Oxygen First Aid training is not just for Rescue Divers. Having your children take these courses as Open Water divers gives them an extra boost of confidence in knowing that they will recognize what to do in the event of an emergency. Being prepared both in and out of the water creates more confident divers, significantly boosting your child’s diving safety.
7. Teach them a proper buddy check
Diving is a life-long endeavor, and you want to do everything you can to make your children safe both now and as adult divers. Engraining in them the importance of a proper buddy check before each dive will do a great deal to ensure their dive safety for years to come.
8. Plan the dive for them, not you
Children cannot dive as deep and as long as adults; therefore, it is imperative that the dive be planned based on your child’s abilities and not your wants. Yes, there may be a super cool wreck to explore at 25 meters (80 feet) deep, but with your young diver in tow, you will have to forsake your desire and take them to explore the shallower reef top instead. There are many considerations, both with gear configurations (think take size) and dive type. You will have to adapt to the comfort and safety of your little diver.
9. Let them lead the dive
Let’s face it; kids get distracted easily and tend to wonder. Their global awareness is almost non-existent, so if you plan on having them follow you throughout the dive, you will either be left continuously looking behind you or risk the possibility of losing them in a heartbeat. Instead, let your child lead you through the dive. Not only will this keep your kiddo in front of you where you can see them, but it will also give them a sense of responsibility, self-confidence, and accomplishment.
10. Become divemaster certified
Probably the best thing you can do as a diver to ensure your child’s safety is to become Divemaster certified yourself. Until your youngster grows into an adult, you will be solely responsible for their underwater safety, leading them on every dive, watching their gauges, and helping them set-up and tear-down their gear. This is the exact job description of a Divemaster, so why not earn the title that goes with it? As a certified Divemaster, your global awareness will be much broader, and you will be better trained in case of an emergency; all things that make your child as safe underwater as they possibly can be.
So what are you waiting for? Do not keep the wonder and excitement of exploring the underwater world all to yourself. Share it with your kids! It may take a little extra effort, but the memories will last a lifetime. There truly is nothing better than sharing the aquatic world you love with those you love most.