A Lifeguard’s Purpose

This is a very fun program that gets children excited about learning. The Pool Cool program is trying to raise the awareness of skin cancer because, as the program points out, “Skin cancer is the fastest growing form of cancer in the United States with one million new cases diagnosed each year. It’s widely known that protection from the sun’s rays could prevent about 90 percent of all skin cancer cases.”

Before every class lifeguards ask children if they put on their sunscreen and spend time teaching ways they can prevent sunburns. This is important and we will never know how much we helped prevent cancer in these children.

The lifeguards also stress the importance of wearing certain clothing when they’re not in the pool. The Pool Cool Program goes beyond the pool into the children’s everyday lives. The lifeguards are able to teach the children using fun assignments like finding the UV index in the newspaper or bringing in their favorite pair of sunglasses or hat and wear them throughout the class.

The instructors are enthusiastic about Pool Cool because it will have a dramatic affect on the children later in life and the children enjoy learning these new and different things.

According to Pool Cool, “Youth are the most at risk for overexposure and have the highest rates of disease due to overexposure before the age of 18.”

I have had the pleasure of seeing many children grow up and I can see changes in them each summer. The lifeguards have built relationships with these children and have helped them develop. There are defining moments that can change a person, but more importantly there is “no particular interaction, context, or moment that is all that important. Rather, what is important is the configuration of these relationships over time, setting, and developmental stage,” according to Pathways to Positive Development Among Diverse Youth (Richard M. Lerner, Carl S. Taylor and Alexander von Eye, eds.).

It is evident that the relationship and environment we create for the children is produced by “possessing a sense of safety (emotional and physical), social connectedness, a desire to learn and be curious, and a sense of identity and meaning (Lerner, etc.).”

We also develop a sense of safety through our skills as lifesaving professionals. The children see that their parents can trust us to protect them while they are in the water.

The water seems dangerous and can leave a child feeling vulnerable, but they still know that we would let nothing harm them.

Children view us as a support system that will be there for them whenever we are needed. The children always ask us for something, and if we have it we will give it. There is never a situation where a lifeguard would turn a child down.

As head guards, we deal with situations ranging from adults fighting to children who can’t find their moms. The children know exactly where to go if they need something. There is a natural inclination for them to search for the lifeguard because to them we can be trusted no matter what.

This trust allows the children to listen and learn from the positive actions of each Congress lifeguard. The Congress lifeguards are able to develop this trust by interacting with the children on a personal level and paying close attention to them as individuals.

We see a lot of the same kids through the summer and at times even I feel like the “adult figure barking out commands,” as fellow lifeguard Shawn Olson put it, but everything we do is for their own good.

We intervene in certain situations so that they might learn right from wrong. We don’t punish kids; this is not our job. Rather, we exercise negative and positive reinforcement through conditioned learning, which makes the kids more tolerant of us and allows them to feel like they made the right decision on their own.

Teaching them swimming, following rules, safety and respect all contribute to them at this specific time in their life. It also develops the framework for building a positive person in what can often be a negative world.

The conditions at the pool, along with the right intervention strategy, help enable a change in the child. These changes might include respect for authority and other children, or a certain moral level might be achieved.

However, there also must a will, or capacity to change in the child which is the only variable that we cannot account for, but we have the opportunity to help every child if they are open to at least listening to us. Enabling a child to make the right decision and seeing them learn from us is the best feeling in the world.

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Related posts:

  1. Are Your Lifeguards Adequately Trained?
  2. Think Ahead
  3. Finding Purpose
  4. For Safety’s Sake
  5. Swim Lessons
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