Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14, with children from minority communities at greatest risk.

With May as National Water Safety Month and summer around the corner, it’s a great time for parents to remember the importance of ensuring their children are equipped with essential water-safety skills.

The Y offers a free Safety Around Water program and swim lessons that help reduce the risk of childhood drowning, develop a lifelong love of swimming and provide children from underserved communities greater access to water-safety programs.

Before letting children hit the water this summer, remember these few tips to ensure it’s an enjoyable and safe experience.

• Never swim alone. Teach children they should swim only in locations where a lifeguard is on duty.

• Supervise children whenever they are in water. Whether it’s bath time or taking a dip in a pool or lake, make sure children are within arm’s reach at all times.

• Don’t engage in breath-holding activities. Children shouldn’t hold their breath for a prolonged amount of time while swimming because this can cause drowning and has several other severe physical side effects.

• Wear a life jacket. Inexperienced swimmers or children who can’t swim should wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket.

• Don’t jump in the water to save a friend who is struggling in deep water. If a child finds a friend in deep water unexpectedly, the natural reaction might be to jump in the water to try to save him or her. Even if a child is a great swimmer, a panicked person will overpower the child, pulling the would-be rescuer under water. The Y’s Safety Around Water program teaches the “reach, throw, don’t go” concept of using a long object to reach for the swimmer and pull him or her to safety. By using this technique, children can help a friend without compromising their own safety.

• Enroll children in water safety or swim lessons. Just like teaching children to look both ways before they cross the street, having them participate in formal water-safety lessons teaches them an important life skill. The Y’s Safety Around Water program and swim lessons teach children fundamental water-safety skills and what to do if they find themselves in water unexpectedly.

Learning how to swim also has multiple benefits beyond the ability to enjoy water safely. It helps children strive for physical achievement, promotes healthy living and builds confidence. To find out how to enroll your child in the Y’s programs, visit www.lcfymca.org.

The Safety Around Water program is scheduled ​11 to 11:45 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays, June 5 to 15 or June 19 to 29, at the Licking County Family YMCA, 470 W. Church St. in Newark, and the Hollander Pool, 1175 Hollander St. in Newark, respectively.

The program is for ages 6-10. Although it is free, registration is required.

Swim lessons are June 5 to Aug. 12 in various sessions all summer long. Registration begins May 22 for members and May 24 for all others.

Through a grant, the Licking County Family YMCA is able to provide swim lessons free of charge to those who qualify. To ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate, financial assistance is available to those in need to help cover the costs.

Dana Moore is the Y Western Branch director and handles marketing and communications for the Licking County Family YMCA. Email her at dana.moore@lcfymca.org. The Y branches are at 470 W. Church St. in Newark and 355 W. Broad St. in Pataskala.