by Nick Lakoff, Certified Dive Instructor
If you’re thinking of involving your kids in your diving adventures while on holidays, here are some tips for parents and dive professionals.
First off most diving organizations around the world whether it be PADI, NAUI, SSI, ACUC, CMAS, SNSI etc… have standards relating to age, depth and instructional ratios. Other than these guidelines that have to be respected by the dive professionals involved there are some other things to consider in order for the experience to be enjoyable for all.
One essential element is for the dive professional to enjoy working with children and teens. This category of clientele is not for everyone. Secondly you have to make it fun for kids therefore creativity is a must. When you’re doing confined water with them you can play games. Best thing is to play game involving buoyancy control. Make it educational but not boring; kids are like sponges they will soak it all up. Make sure your dive briefings include lots of info on the sea life they are going to see, especially macro stuff you can show them in the shallows. You have to make them very comfortable with the scuba gear. If they are already certified you have to ensure they are familiar with their own gear or the rental gear they are using. You have to be very patient and go slow because kids can have a meltdown very rapidly and it’s hard to recover from that. Make sure the equipment fits them correctly, I once had a kid who lost his weight belt during the dive cause he hadn’t tighten it enough but he was such a pro and recovered the belt, didn’t panic and was able to put it back on with a little help from us. Make sure you respect depth and choose dive sites that are appropriate for their abilities. Avoid any dive sites that are too challenging or have strong currents etc…You have to go very slowly, almost to a stall when guiding dives where there are kids since they cannot keep up with adults.
Oh a few other things…..Kids have short attention spans so you have to make sure there is enough supervision with kids…small groups are better and always two instructors/DM’s. Make sure you have an effective noise maker to get their attention. Unless they have been diving a lot and their brain has made the adjustment they will have hard time knowing where sounds are coming from so be patient. Direct visual contact is the best and when doing the briefing make sure you insist that they regularly look at you as well as their gauges.
Sometimes it’s better for parents to take a back seat when kids are participating in a diving related activity. Sometimes simply being there can cause the children to be stressed due to performance anxiety or vie for the parents attention by acting out. Once the instructional part is concluded then parents can become involved. Parents can sometimes make things worse when there is an issue in the water. It’s normal for a parent to be protective of their children but it’s important that you let the dive professional deal with any issue that arises. For the dive professional, the dive briefing is the best place to nicely ask them to let you deal with issues as they arise in the water.
All other things aside what I love about diving with children and teens is that they since they are generally fearless they don’t put limitations on themselves. Because of this they are more confident in the water they catch on to concepts like buoyancy controls rather quickly. Another thing I love is the pure joy and excitement you see in their faces as they are in the water exploring a new world of adventures.