Children and scuba diving
Deciding when your child is ready to learn to scuba dive is a decision you shouldn’t just leave to one of the dive training bodies.
THE ISSUE OF WHAT AGE CHILDREN ARE able to learn to scuba dive is a complex one. Training agencies tend to adopt a one-size-fits-all policy, fixing a specific age at which they can be certified. This sort of approach is inappropriate where children are concerned though as they develop physically, psychologically and socially at very different speeds. A training agency may tell you that a child of 12 can learn to scuba dive, with parental consent, but this does not mean that YOUR 12-year-old should learn. In fact, dive professionals have little relevant expertise at all in assessing whether your child is ready to scuba dive, save what they might have learned if they have taught their own kids. In other words, it is experience as a parent that is most relevant and there is no one better qualified that than you. The decision regarding when a child can learn to scuba dive must take into account individual educational, physical, physiological, psychological and situational factors. Can they swim well? Are they comfortable in water? Do they have good reading, comprehension and communication skills? Are they medically fit to dive, as assessed by a diving doctor. Is child-sized equipment available? Have you found an instructor you trust? I have three daughters, all very different. From an early age, they were on the water, in the water and hanging around with divers. The situational circumstances were ideal. I was an experienced instructor and I owned a dive centre that stocked equipment sized for small children, such as tiny cylinders and BCDS. We even had child-sized snorkel and regulator mouthpieces. I taught my eldest daughter when she was 12. She was tall, strong, sensible, listened well, processed information intelligently and was a precocious reader. She had a close friend who wanted to learn to dive too and they made a good team. It is very important that children are taught to dive separately from adults and in very small groups, so they are not overlooked. At 12, my second daughter was smaller than her sister. She also had a vivid imagination, tended to daydream and could be impulsive. I decided to wait a couple of years until she was stronger and more emotionally mature and she eventually learned to dive at 15. When my third daughter was 12, I took her for her pre-dive medical check-up and she was diagnosed with a minor health issue that meant that scuba diving might carry a risk for her. She was disappointed at first but eventually accepted that it made sense and is a very happy and fulfilled snorkeller. Now an adult, she has never learned to dive and is absolutely fine with that. Which brings me to a final caveat: just because you, as parents, may be divers, this does not mean that your children will automatically want to learn to dive. Fight the urge to push them. If they want to dive, they’ll let you know.
This is the fourth and final article in our series based on materi a l f rom the author’s book entitled ‘Scuba Fundamental – Start Diving the Right Way’. See pre v i ous 2 0 1 7 issues for the rest of the series.