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Kids, the ocean, fear of sharks

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I live in Florida, about 20 minutes from the beach (Atlantic Ocean).  I grew up in Michigan, on a lake, and every summer was spent in and on the water.... skiing, paddle boating, canoeing, swimming, etc.  Water freezing? (Lake Michigan for example?) So what.... go in.  It's summer.   

My kids are wimps.  If the water is below 80 it's like I'm personally trying to ruin their lives.

Anyways, I did grow up in the era of Jaws and that James Bond movie where the sharks come out of the grate in the pool...so I had a fear or sharks as a kid.  I'm still a little iffy, but mask it...and assume that there are much tastier fare in the ocean.  (They tend to eat tourists anyways. Not kidding.)  I know to stay out of the ocean at dusk and such for feeding.

My kids are deathly afraid of sharks and even going into the ocean to splash around.  They say their Dad showed them a bunch of Shark Week movies.  I've tried to counteract the fear with facts, but no luck.  I don't want them to be afraid.  I was planning on sending them to surf camp for a week or two this summer to learn how to surf.  Living in Florida, I think it's just something one should do.  All are excellent swimmers.

They do not want to go.

Should I force/bribe them?  What would you do? I think having fun in the water might help.   It bugs me to think that for the next 50+ years, they will be afraid of the ocean....especially if they live in Florida or someplace coastal.  

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I would not force or bribe if someone is really afraid. Incremental desensitization (sorry - work comes through now and then) may be one way to go if they are willing. This would mean they stay at the edge of the water, then gradually go in deeper and deeper at their own pace and comfort level.

However, one can live near the ocean and enjoy it in all its glory without ever swimming in it. They can swim in pools without any worries. 

I absolutely love the ocean but we can rarely swim in it because of the temps here in Northern CA. I have probably been in the ocean up to my knees or slightly above before I had to retreat because of the cold water. I still love living near the ocean and could look at it all day long.

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I don't have any answers for you but I'm more afraid of riptides in Florida than sharks. And I grew up here. Last weekend 16 people were rescued from riptides on Cocoa Beach and one person drowned. Memorial Day weekend is always full of riptide rescues and sadly, it's not uncommon to learn of one or more drownings.

https://www.clickorlando.com/news/florida/brevard-county/woman-drowns-in-cocoa-beach

 

ETA: As a nearly lifelong Floridian I understand your kids' water temperature requirements. I won't go in if it's below 80 either. I don't swim in springs because at 72 degrees they're way too cold for me.

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That is not something that would bother me at all, so no, I would not force or bribe them. I would just let them go at their own pace and if they someday decide they are comfortable in the ocean, great. If not, no big deal.

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That's a hard one.

I think Liz's idea of slowly getting used to it might work, if they wanted to get in the water at all.

Of course, sharks can attack in very shallow water too. I think many do have a true fear of sharks or other underwater critters that you can't see but that might bump into you. To be fair, jellyfish are not uncommon (I've been stung before) & I watched/helped someone who got hit with a stingray barb in her foot while in ankle deep water at the beach.

I don't say any of that to scare you or others. I grew up in/around coastlines for the most part & we went to the beach a lot. I swim in the ocean & do not fear getting in the water. Though, like Kathy pointed out, I try to be hyper-aware of currents & changing water/tide conditions. *Those* are a real & present danger, imo. Too many people don't respect the power of water itself.

But, as a kid, I would have hated if my mom made me go to reptile camp (I feared snakes) or something similar. (I slowly exposed myself more as an adult so that I wouldn't pass on an irrational fear to my dc.) I cannot imagine forcing spiders on my arachnophobe sister or ds. My mom (a beach bum) was deathly afraid of swimming/water herself, so she made sure I had lessons from an early age. But, I remember being a kid in the ocean with my mom (who was willing to hang onto a raft as long as her feet could touch the bottom); a wave came & we must have moved to a deeper area where her feet could no longer touch. I heard her gasp & she froze. I had to swim her in on the raft. (Good thing I had all those lessons & was a strong swimmer.) So, putting a terrified person in the water may not be a good idea in case they freeze or panic for some reason.

Maybe the best tack is to continue to talk about it, expose them to being on the beach, playing in tide pools, & stressing water safety. Over time, their fears may subside or they may decide to overcome their fears.

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4 minutes ago, Stacia said:

To be fair, jellyfish are not uncommon (I've been stung before) & I watched/helped someone who got hit with a stingray barb in her foot while in ankle deep water at the beach.

 

Oh yes, that too. We often see reminders about jellyfish and man 'o war, with the warning not to touch them even if you see them on shore and they appear dead.

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I'm guessing that there is a whole lot more to the story and the outdoor water culture of your family. If you say your dc are excellent swimmers, yet don't swim in the ocean or lakes, then they are probably used to swimming in heated pools. Sounds like your job is done as far as ensuring that they can swim as a life skill.

If you want to plan family vacation or day at the beach, you and your dh can enjoy the water. Maybe they'll join you in the water, or maybe they'll spend their time on the sand. If you and their father are happily swimming in the water, not worried about the sharks, maybe that will influence their fear.

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Well, I'm with your kids on this one--I saw Jaws at an impressionable age (WHAT were my parents thinking???  Jaws on the big screen when I was maybe 6?), and I refuse to admit that my fear of sharks is irrational.  It is an entirely rational fear--people do get attacked by sharks.  But the point of this little tale is to say that I was determined not to pass this fear on to my kids, so when baseball took us to Panama City for a week several years ago, I let them do everything--kite surfing, renting wave runners, etc., and they were fine.  It was my first trip to the beach in probably 20 years, and I stayed out of the water, but I enjoyed watching them do their thing.  But as I was brushing my teeth one morning, gazing out the window of our condo, what swam up practically onto the beach?  A hammerhead!  He was in probably 2' of water, tops.  Who goes to the beach once every twenty years and actually sees a shark???

Okay, carry on.  I am clearly not going to be any help.

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Do you have lakes or lagoons near you where they could do something like paddleboarding lessons (instead of surfing in the ocean)? Maybe something like that would be an option?

I tried paddleboarding for the first time when we were at the beach a couple of years ago. It was awesome! If I were lucky enough to live near a beach, I'd own a paddleboard.

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12 minutes ago, Stacia said:

Do you have lakes or lagoons near you where they could do something like paddleboarding lessons (instead of surfing in the ocean)? Maybe something like that would be an option?

I tried paddleboarding for the first time when we were at the beach a couple of years ago. It was awesome! If I were lucky enough to live near a beach, I'd own a paddleboard.

See, I love swimming in the ocean, but swimming in lakes in warm climate areas freaks me out because of the brain eating amoebas.  That's also probably an irrational fear, but lakes just feel so much dirtier to me.  I am aware of rip tides and ocean currents and jellyfish (I've been stung) and sharks, but I swim in the ocean anyway.  But the brain eating amoebas make it hard to get past.  I would not sign kids up for Surf Camp if they were afraid of swimming in the ocean.  That would make both them and the instructor/ other students miserable.  I probably wouldn't curtail family trips to the beach, but I wouldn't make them go in.  Honestly, while I LOVE the beach and most of our vacations were to Hilton Head, my kids finally told me that they hate the beach because sand and salt make their skin hurt.  Wouldn't have occurred to me, but it's valid.  So I plan different vacations now.  People can like different things.  If we lived in a beach town, I'd probably sigh a lot, but I wouldn't force.  I don't think that's a productive way to get over a fear anyway.  And while fears of sharks isn't all that rational, there are legitimate ocean dangers that make sense.  As long as they are strong swimmers, I'd make sure they understand intellectually about rip tides and such, and then let them be.  

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It depends on your kids. When mine were a bit younger, my kids were ALWAYS tentative trying new things so I often bribed and cajouled.  I picked stuff I thought they'd actually enjoy once they could relax a little and I was almost nearly always right. I kind of feel like if I never pushed my kids they'd both still be in cribs and diapers.  LOL.  They were just cautious, tentative, slightly anxious kids that would over think.  Having positive experiences trying new things has made them more adventurous teens.  

My son has NEVER loved swimming.  Even at water parks with friends he's done in a couple hours when his friends would go all day.  So for him, I'm not sure that exact activity would be a good fit.  If your kids love swimming, it seems like it could be a good fit!  I guess if I lived in Florida, I would work on it.  Both my kids were slow to swimming and slow to waterparks but do enjoy them now.  

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47 minutes ago, Stacia said:

Do you have lakes or lagoons near you where they could do something like paddleboarding lessons (instead of surfing in the ocean)? Maybe something like that would be an option?

I tried paddleboarding for the first time when we were at the beach a couple of years ago. It was awesome! If I were lucky enough to live near a beach, I'd own a paddleboard.

Not that this helps, but I read at an aquarium once that many shark attacks happen to surfers because from below to a hungry shark they look like a tasty seal : )

Why yes, I did see Jaws at a completely inappropriate young age, why do you ask?!? lol

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1 hour ago, Stacia said:

Do you have lakes or lagoons near you where they could do something like paddleboarding lessons (instead of surfing in the ocean)? Maybe something like that would be an option?

I tried paddleboarding for the first time when we were at the beach a couple of years ago. It was awesome! If I were lucky enough to live near a beach, I'd own a paddleboard.

 

I'd do the ocean over lakes any day here because of gators and moccasins.  I know real life people who've been attacked by those....and lost pets and such...but no shark victims. Makes me miss Michigan.  Worst thing I had to fear in the lake was seaweed. ?

And yes, I fear riptides more than sharks too. 

They will go to the ocean with me now that I think of it.  They will go in the water with me and play with boogie boards and such.  (Body surfing basically.)  Maybe I need to be there for comfort? I'm OK with that.  

Honestly, I think a big part of this is more wanting to stay at home and play Fortnite than it is fear of sharks.

So, the new ultimatum will be you must choose an active camp of your choosing for at least four weeks of the summer.  I don't care what it is.  But you will be busy.

I also acknowledge that this partly the way I was raised.  We were in camp all summer long.  We were busy.  One summer when I didn't want to go to camp, I had water skiing lessons every single morning.  No sitting around.  I'm not as hardcore as my parents, but I do think a little push now and again can help.  

Maybe I'll sign the family up for a private group surfing lesson and see how that goes.

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4 minutes ago, Tanaqui said:

What do you think you'll gain out of forcing them into the water?

Realizing that their fears are unwarranted.  That sometimes it's OK to try something your'e a little uneasy about it, and 99% of the time, everything is fine.  

I think I've overstated their fear of sharks based on past experiences.  I think this new found OMG No sharks...is more of a "I don't want to do anything formal" this summer--which is not an option.  I work and need at least a few hours each day without kids to get that work done.

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Yeah, ok, I amend my take on lakes. I don't like lakes in the south because of snakes & gators. And bacteria. (I think the last time I was in a lake was when I was a kid.)

I'd take the ocean any day.

 

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Given that we live on the water, I am firmly in the cajole and bribe category. I would not want to live in a place like Florida while being deathly afraid of the ocean. However, I don't think I would start with surf camp. Learning to surf is a hard enough activity for many kids; I am not sure that I would want to compound that process with a more than usual fear of the ocean. Or, to pass off that responsibility onto a teenage camp counselor. I would likely start with another type of ocean camp -- perhaps junior lifeguard/ocean safety or watersports (sailing, paddleboarding, etc.) and use a more incremental approach. I might also try some snorkeling so that they can get a better appreciation for marine life. But, I would definitely want my kids to be able to comfortably swim in the ocean/enjoy the ocean as a long-term goal if I lived near the beach.

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1 hour ago, umsami said:

Realizing that their fears are unwarranted.  That sometimes it's OK to try something your'e a little uneasy about it, and 99% of the time, everything is fine.   

 

Then you should know that this has a high chance of backfiring and turning a minor issue (scared of sharks) into a serious one (scared of all water experiences and also resentful of Mom).

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I will preface this by saying that we go camping at the beach every summer once or twice for a week at a time.  Last summer the rangers made everyone get out of the water because a pair of juvenile great whites were cruising back and forth in visual distance.  We got out for a few hours and then went back in.  Dh surfs, all of the kids have tried surfing but none have really taken to it because our part of the Pacific Ocean is cold :)  

I would skip surf camp.  Surfing is not easy.  It requires a surprising amount of concentration and it would be even more difficult and not at all enjoyable to learn while being distracted by fears about what may or may not be in the water. I would not skip other trips to the beach & ocean activities where there is less pressure to not only be in the water but to be constantly in the deep water to slowly get them back to being more comfortable and worrying less about sharks.  Also, no more Shark Week :)

Dh was completely traumatized as a kid by Jaws.  I didn't see it until I was an adult.

  This photo was taken from my chair on the beach with my terrible phone camera as that distinctive triangle fin went slowly back and forth with another one crossing in the middle of the beach where we were. It kinda looks like the old Loch Ness photos.

Amber in SJ

shark fin 2017.jpg

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Now that you said this might be an exaggerated "I'm afraid of sharks," thing when really they just don't want to do it, I'd look for a different kind of camp experience for them, where they can't use that as an excuse.  Robotics camp, maybe.  No one is afraid of robots, right?  No one has ever been traumatized by robots in a movie, right? 

"Open the pod bay doors, Hal.....I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave....."

Eeeeeek!

Amber in SJ

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3 hours ago, plansrme said:

Well, I'm with your kids on this one--I saw Jaws at an impressionable age (WHAT were my parents thinking???  Jaws on the big screen when I was maybe 6?), and I refuse to admit that my fear of sharks is irrational.  It is an entirely rational fear--people do get attacked by sharks.  But the point of this little tale is to say that I was determined not to pass this fear on to my kids, so when baseball took us to Panama City for a week several years ago, I let them do everything--kite surfing, renting wave runners, etc., and they were fine.  It was my first trip to the beach in probably 20 years, and I stayed out of the water, but I enjoyed watching them do their thing.  But as I was brushing my teeth one morning, gazing out the window of our condo, what swam up practically onto the beach?  A hammerhead!  He was in probably 2' of water, tops.  Who goes to the beach once every twenty years and actually sees a shark???

Okay, carry on.  I am clearly not going to be any help.

I’m no help either. I really hate the beach. The one time I tried was at South Padre Island in the mid 80’s. I was with my college boyfriend, slim enough for a bikini, and feeling good. We weren’t very far out when I realized there were a couple of REALLY BIG fish around me. He yelled Sharks! and swam back to shore. Without me. I don’t remember what type they were, but I remember having a hissy fit about him leaving me.

 

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Okay, so I'm going to embarrass myself with this story from my young adult years. I too used to get spooked by Jaws back in the day. 

My two girlfriends and I used to spend nearly all of our spare time at the beach. Those were the pre-sunscreen days when we actually used baby oil to try and tan. One friend was particularly afraid of shark attacks. The three of us were bobbing around in the ocean at an east coast Florida beach, one without a lot of tourists and no lifeguards. But we were young and invincible so the lack of lifeguards didn't bother us. That was our beach, the one we grew up going to.  The scaredy cat friend suddenly started breathing hard and pointing a little way out from where we were bobbing. She pointed at fins. Within seconds we were running towards the shore. Yes running. Have you ever tried to run out of the ocean? It feels like you are in a slow motion video. We finally made it to the shore, turned around to look at the "sharks" and saw the porpoises coming up for air. Yep. Our sharks were actually porpoises. ? 

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I definitely understand having to push kids a little to do stuff that they're a little uneasy/ anxious about.  I have a kid like that, that sometimes you have to push.  Absolutely.  It just has to be a manageable step.  Full fledged shark phobia and surf camp wouldn't be a good fit, but maybe turtle patrol on the beach might be an incremental step that could be manageable.  I also totally get the "I want to sit around and watch YouTube videos all day and never do anything, so I'll say I'm scared of it," too.  I'd toss them the camp brochures and say, "Okay, pick."  That's totally legitimate.

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Oh, girl. I don't swim in the ocean at all, but I love to walk along the shore. That is, I did until I heard this recently. 

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/04/30/boy-swept-out-sea-drowned-body-found/564854002/

Reminds me of the Pulitzer winner:

https://bob520.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/tragedy-by-the-sea-pulitzer-prize-winning-photograph-1955/

Breaks. my. heart. 

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Sharks, jellyfish, random seaweed and the fact that I can't see what's under me.  All reasons I love the ocean but don't swim in it, mostly.

Not to mention the John Williams soundtrack in my head. ?

 

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20 hours ago, umsami said:

So, the new ultimatum will be you must choose an active camp of your choosing for at least four weeks of the summer.  I don't care what it is.  But you will be busy.

 

1

 

This is what I would do. There are plenty of great choices, no sense trying to force kids to like a specific activity. And they are excellent swimmers, so you have fulfilled your parental duty. 

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On 5/9/2018 at 8:46 AM, umsami said:

I live in Florida, about 20 minutes from the beach (Atlantic Ocean).  I grew up in Michigan, on a lake, and every summer was spent in and on the water.... skiing, paddle boating, canoeing, swimming, etc.  Water freezing? (Lake Michigan for example?) So what.... go in.  It's summer.   

My kids are wimps.  If the water is below 80 it's like I'm personally trying to ruin their lives.

Anyways, I did grow up in the era of Jaws and that James Bond movie where the sharks come out of the grate in the pool...so I had a fear or sharks as a kid.  I'm still a little iffy, but mask it...and assume that there are much tastier fare in the ocean.  (They tend to eat tourists anyways. Not kidding.)  I know to stay out of the ocean at dusk and such for feeding.

My kids are deathly afraid of sharks and even going into the ocean to splash around.  They say their Dad showed them a bunch of Shark Week movies.  I've tried to counteract the fear with facts, but no luck.  I don't want them to be afraid.  I was planning on sending them to surf camp for a week or two this summer to learn how to surf.  Living in Florida, I think it's just something one should do.  All are excellent swimmers.

They do not want to go.

Should I force/bribe them?  What would you do? I think having fun in the water might help.   It bugs me to think that for the next 50+ years, they will be afraid of the ocean....especially if they live in Florida or someplace coastal.  

I wouldn’t force them. When ds was about 8 we let him watch some questionable footage on shark week and lived to regret it. He was super afraid of the ocean after that. My approach with all my kids is to invite them to go with me if they want. My dh HATES going into the ocean and has lived a very happy life without that experience. I absolutely adore the ocean and will go in all by myself if no one wants to come with me. When we go to the beach, the kids can do whatever they want. Ds eventually decided that I looked like I was having fun. 

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2 years ago, my son was reading up all that he could find about Tsunamis and then was terrorized when I took him to the beach in the summer - because, there are Tsunami Evacuation Route signs all along the pacific coastal towns. He was literally sitting on the beach and staring with a terrorized expression at the ocean to see if a sudden and large Tsunami would sweep all of us into the ocean. I got into the water and stayed for 30 minutes while explaining that a Tsunami is not sudden etc and he finally got in for 2 minutes and was done with it. Now, 2 years later, he hardly remembers anything about Tsunamis and laughs at the episode. So, I think that you can get into the water and show them that there are no sharks going after you. Then, let them get over the fear in time. I am sure that they will forget in a while.

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4 hours ago, ___ said:

Oh, and 3 of our kids are down in New Orleans right now doing some Habitat for Hummanity thing and one dd sent me this photo the first day.

DD's were just hanging around on the edge of the water when he popped up out of that deep, dark water  ....   Dd said they fed him some Dorritos.  lol  I reminded her that those gators can jump pretty far out of the water ...  And they're like bears - you feed 'em once and they'll keep comin' back for more ...

 

 

 

Oh no! Never ever feed gators. I'm not sure about Louisiana but it's illegal to do so in Florida. Scenes like that are not at all uncommon in states with alligators. The rule is if it's fresh water there will be gators in it.  They don't mind brackish water either. And never, ever let your dog in the water.

This is just a retention pond behind the Cracker Barrel near me. It's just a baby but won't be for long.

 

941741_10152878010775447_586790880_n.jpg

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4 hours ago, ___ said:

Oh, and 3 of our kids are down in New Orleans right now doing some Habitat for Hummanity thing and one dd sent me this photo the first day.

DD's were just hanging around on the edge of the water when he popped up out of that deep, dark water  ....   Dd said they fed him some Dorritos.  lol  I reminded her that those gators can jump pretty far out of the water ...  And they're like bears - you feed 'em once and they'll keep comin' back for more ...

20180507_083329.jpg

 

Robotics camp sounds good.  REAL good.  ?

Ugh, do NOT feed the alligators!!!

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On 5/9/2018 at 1:45 PM, umsami said:

 

I'd do the ocean over lakes any day here because of gators and moccasins.  I know real life people who've been attacked by those....and lost pets and such...but no shark victims. Makes me miss Michigan.  Worst thing I had to fear in the lake was seaweed. ?

And yes, I fear riptides more than sharks too. 

They will go to the ocean with me now that I think of it.  They will go in the water with me and play with boogie boards and such.  (Body surfing basically.)  Maybe I need to be there for comfort? I'm OK with that.  

Honestly, I think a big part of this is more wanting to stay at home and play Fortnite than it is fear of sharks.

So, the new ultimatum will be you must choose an active camp of your choosing for at least four weeks of the summer.  I don't care what it is.  But you will be busy.

I also acknowledge that this partly the way I was raised.  We were in camp all summer long.  We were busy.  One summer when I didn't want to go to camp, I had water skiing lessons every single morning.  No sitting around.  I'm not as hardcore as my parents, but I do think a little push now and again can help.  

Maybe I'll sign the family up for a private group surfing lesson and see how that goes.

I'd have them pick a summer camp of something they'd really like to do. It's a wonderful opportunity you're giving them.  

As someone mentioned, getting up on a surf board is very challenging and requires a lot of desire - not to mention strength and balance. I'm sure it's a wonderful activity for those who really want to do it, but there are millions of choices of summer camps these days. Do some brain storming with your dc and see if you can fire up some excitement. 

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11 hours ago, ___ said:

Oh, and 3 of our kids are down in New Orleans right now doing some Habitat for Hummanity thing and one dd sent me this photo the first day.

DD's were just hanging around on the edge of the water when he popped up out of that deep, dark water  ....   Dd said they fed him some Dorritos.  lol  I reminded her that those gators can jump pretty far out of the water ...  And they're like bears - you feed 'em once and they'll keep comin' back for more ...

 

 

4

 

omg, no! If they are close enough to toss Doritos, they are close enough to be eaten themselves. Their hosts really should have hammered this home, it is illegal but, more importantly, super dangerous. That gator can not only jump out of the water, it is perfectly comfortable on land and can run much faster than they can. I can't tell size in this pic, but you don't want to tangle with even a small gator. Adult-ish humans are too big to be seen as prey most of the time, but feeding them disrupts that.  

 

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My BIL's cousin actually got bitten by a shark so... I can see how people are afraid of these possibilities. I would not force the surfing. Not everyone is interested. It may not even just be the shark thing. They might just not be interested. I would imagine that isn't cheap so I would put that money toward something that would be better received (maybe another activity for summer, even movie tickets). 

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Yeah, do NOT feed gators. And I don't know how much truth is behind this, but when I moved to Mississippi a neighbor told me to run uphill to get away from a gator if necessary. Supposedly they have more trouble going uphill. But I wouldn't want to count on that or get to that point. 

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6 hours ago, ___ said:

OK.  I told them to stay away from the water.  And dd said the host was actually trying to get a selfie with that gator in the background.  

I guess I didn't think too much about it because my grandfather used to take us fishing when we were kids and the gators would be sunning themselves along the banks of the river right near where we were fishing (Miss. River).   

 

They can be fairly near the water, they should just not feed the wildlife. Or get close enough to take selfies, lol.  Alligators are everywhere here and there is rarely a reason to worry, but feeding them disrupts normal behavior, and it is currently mating/nesting season. 

We used to have a boardwalk trail nearby, and the alligators would sprawl across it sunning themselves. When people wanted to get by, they would stomp on the boardwalk and the vibrations would usually make them slither off into the water. I've done that many times. I'm not brave enough to do what some people do, and literally step over them. No thank you! 

It's common to see them in parks and on golf courses. They show up in suburbia pretty often because there are so many canals and drainage ditches. Fun fact: no matter where it is, it's not a 'nuisance' alligator until it's at least 4 foot long! If there's a 3 foot gator in your pool, well, don't go swimming today, and it will probably be gone tomorrow. 

5 hours ago, heartlikealion said:

Yeah, do NOT feed gators. And I don't know how much truth is behind this, but when I moved to Mississippi a neighbor told me to run uphill to get away from a gator if necessary. Supposedly they have more trouble going uphill. But I wouldn't want to count on that or get to that point. 

 

New Orleans doesn't have any hills! 

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I first saw Jaws as a small child, while on vacation AT THE BEACH!  What were my parents thinking?!

I still am not comfortable in the ocean. Give me a pool any day!

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On 5/9/2018 at 9:12 AM, Liz CA said:

I would not force or bribe if someone is really afraid. Incremental desensitization (sorry - work comes through now and then) may be one way to go if they are willing. This would mean they stay at the edge of the water, then gradually go in deeper and deeper at their own pace and comfort level.

However, one can live near the ocean and enjoy it in all its glory without ever swimming in it. They can swim in pools without any worries. 

I absolutely love the ocean but we can rarely swim in it because of the temps here in Northern CA. I have probably been in the ocean up to my knees or slightly above before I had to retreat because of the cold water. I still love living near the ocean and could look at it all day long.

What Liz said ? It was going to be my response too.

 

I am actually having the reverse problem with my ocean loving polar bears. They don't seem to feel cold until their lips look blue and I am hauling them out. I try to instill a healthy level of respect for the unpredictable ocean but if my eyes don't stay on those dare devils they are wading out too far. Even a last summer jelly fish sting and the random crab pinch does nothing to deter them. I get so nervous when we go to the beach!

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I wouldn't force or bribe. I would schedule to go to the beach for 4-6 hours twice a week from here on out. Your kids are young enough to be forced along for a "fun" family outing. Bring plenty of snacks, trashy food, trashy drinks, umbrellas, fun sand toys and a few floaty things. If they get wet, fine. If not, fine. They can play frisbee or football on the beach all day or dig to the center of the earth and bury their younger siblings. Sand castle contests. Learn to make "drip" castles as that requires being fairly near the ocean for water. ?

 

Be sure YOU and any of your mom friends who you can bring along or Dad if he's free gets wet, has fun swimming and/or body surfing . . . (designating another adult or teen to supervise the kids who are left on the beach and prohibiting them from getting in past their ankles until an adult is on hand). 

 

You have fun. Your kids will have fun in the sand if they don't get wet. Most likely (90% chance, is my bet) all or at least most of your kids will be having a blast in the water soon enough.

 

Be sure to make the outings FUN. Crappy food. Ice cream stops on the way home or for a break if there's a boardwalk. No hassles. Just fun. If a kid wants to read under an umbrella all day, fine -- serve them chips and soda . . . I would probably prohibit electronics except for cameras, just to minimize the chance that a kid will simply zone out on Instagram or Netflix all day and increase the attractiveness of active fun.

 

My bet is that if you just do that twice a week for the summer, your kids will be in the water within a few weeks. If not all of them, most of them. At the end of the summer, if any of the kids are still afraid of the water, I'd schedule them individual therapy appointments with a good therapist who should be able to fix that quickly. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, katilac said:

 

They can be fairly near the water, they should just not feed the wildlife. Or get close enough to take selfies, lol.  Alligators are everywhere here and there is rarely a reason to worry, but feeding them disrupts normal behavior, and it is currently mating/nesting season. 

We used to have a boardwalk trail nearby, and the alligators would sprawl across it sunning themselves. When people wanted to get by, they would stomp on the boardwalk and the vibrations would usually make them slither off into the water. I've done that many times. I'm not brave enough to do what some people do, and literally step over them. No thank you! 

It's common to see them in parks and on golf courses. They show up in suburbia pretty often because there are so many canals and drainage ditches. Fun fact: no matter where it is, it's not a 'nuisance' alligator until it's at least 4 foot long! If there's a 3 foot gator in your pool, well, don't go swimming today, and it will probably be gone tomorrow. 

 

New Orleans doesn't have any hills! 

All of the above (and Florida doesn't have hills either. ? )

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I wanted to add that the best book is by the author of JAWS, Peter Benchley, who was sad that he'd created a culture terrified of sharks. So he spent his last decades writing about sharks and the ocean in general.

I reread this book every year. It should be in every classroom. It's a slim paperback and is full of totally absorbing stories -- not boring at all.

It's called Shark Life by Peter Benchley.

Reading it as a family would be seriously beneficial for your kids.

Alley

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Are you on social media? You may want to follow @WhySharksMatter. He’s on both Facebook and Twitter (and maybe Instagram). David Shippman is an elasmobranch biologist who really focuses on using social media to help people understand sharks and shark behavior. He kind of fell into this roll by live tweeting during Shark Week as far as the accuracies and inaccuracies. He’s a really nice guy, generally patient with questions, and posts very interesting stuff. 

 

FWIW, my DD is going to a Marine bio camp this summer that includes surfing as one of the activities. She already has said she has no plans to surf-but would LOVE to see a wild shark! 

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Just updating with what appears to be a fatal gator attack in Florida - note that she was walking her dog, which increases the chance of an attack. If I had dogs, I'd never walk them near ponds or such in Louisiana or Florida. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/06/08/florida-alligator-attack-woman-missing-in-davie-after-witness-sees-dogs-barking-near-pond/?utm_term=.bc95f3b842c4

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21 minutes ago, katilac said:

Just updating with what appears to be a fatal gator attack in Florida - note that she was walking her dog, which increases the chance of an attack. If I had dogs, I'd never walk them near ponds or such in Louisiana or Florida. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/06/08/florida-alligator-attack-woman-missing-in-davie-after-witness-sees-dogs-barking-near-pond/?utm_term=.bc95f3b842c4

I saw the story on the BBC website too. I didn't realize that made national news and international news but it's pretty horrifying. I wonder how close she was to the bank. It's mating season and they're particularly aggressive at this time. 

Although freak attacks happen they're actually rare. Most attacks come from humans taking unnecessary risks. Some common sense behaviors can allow humans and their pets to peacefully coexist. 

From this Florida Ag Extension office link. (bolded text is from the link, not my addition)

How can I stay safe around alligators?

Alligators and Floridians usually have a peaceful coexistence, but there are recorded attacks and occasional fatalities. The key to staying safe is being alert to the possibility of alligators being present. Never feed gators or swim or wade in waters where large alligators are known or likely to occur, especially at dusk or night (when they naturally feed). It is illegal to feed alligators. When humans feed alligators, it causes the alligators to lose their natural fear of humans and to associate humans with food. It doesn't matter if people feed them human-food like marshmallows or throw them fish guts when cleaning fish, it's all bad. It changes the alligator's behavior.

Normally, alligators avoid humans, but alligators that have been fed by humans will move toward humans and can become aggressive. Alligators that have been fed by humans are dangerous and should be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Its very important to keep children and pets away from the water's edge wherever alligators are likely to be present. Do not allow dogs to swim or explore waters that are known to have alligators because dogs look like prey to alligators. There are far more alligator attacks on dogs than on humans. An alligator's prey selection seems based mostly on size of the potential prey animal, not so much on a keen recognition of specific animals as prey or non-prey.

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I'd respect their fears while gently encouraging them to enjoy the beach in other ways than swimming--walking, wading, collecting shells, observing sand crabs, building sand castles, etc. Swimming in the ocean (or any body of water) isn't something that everyone enjoys or even likes, nor is it a requirement for a happy, fulfilled life. Nor, of course, is surfing.

I understand wanting kids to overcome their fears, but I also don't believe a healthy respect for the ocean, the creatures who live in it and the conditions one might encounter while in it is unwarranted. I'd no more go jump in the ocean w/o giving some thought to what might be around me and what the current might be like than I'd go hiking in the back country w/o taking into consideration there might be bears or mountain lions or other predatory mammals around. Or poisonous snakes. And in that instance, unlike in the ocean, I'm at no particular disadvantage. Land is my natural habitat as much as it is a bear's. The ocean is a shark's natural habitat, not mine, which puts me at a distinct disadvantage from the get go. Sure the risk in either situation is probably relatively small. But it's there, and a certain amount of wariness is a very good thing. It's a fine line between healthy wariness and unhealthy fear, though. That line is of course what I'd be trying to straddle with kids. Given their fears if possible I'd try to find some other summer camp for them. I'd want to work with them on the fear myself rather than thrusting them into a situation like a camp.

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Gators, sharks, jellyfish....

this was my view this morning while I drank my coffee.  I think I will stay in the Fingerlakes thankyouverymuch.  We spend most of our summer either swimming or on the boat, but nothing tries to eat me.

(To be fair, I very much loved going to Hawaii and spending all my time in the ocean, but even then I still had a shark phobia)

004ACC6C-8874-4FB7-80F1-F0D0C9019602.jpeg

96F6C7E8-C15F-4518-B384-177783B880E7.jpeg

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9 hours ago, katilac said:

Just updating with what appears to be a fatal gator attack in Florida - note that she was walking her dog, which increases the chance of an attack. If I had dogs, I'd never walk them near ponds or such in Louisiana or Florida. 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2018/06/08/florida-alligator-attack-woman-missing-in-davie-after-witness-sees-dogs-barking-near-pond/?utm_term=.bc95f3b842c4

 

That's not always possible.  The original geography of the state was mostly swamp, with a few "hammocks" (islands of higher, dryer land) and prairies scattered throughout. Plus, there's a rainy season and storms that can drop feet of rain in a couple of days. Part of what enabled the explosion of population growth in Florida was public work projects in the 30's that put canals in everywhere to partially drain swamps.  There are retention ponds and creeks and canals everywhere, all of which likely contain gators and water moccasins. We lived more than half a mile from the closest canal when I was a kid and we still ended up with gators in our yard whenever the water level had a rapid fluctuation - mostly during droughts and hurricanes. One of my aunts had some in a particularly deep drainage ditch with a big gator in it near her house after one hurricane, and she lived on one of the largest hammocks in the county, several miles from standing water.

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