Welcome to expatparent.ch

Hi, my name is Michelle Walz and I am the founder of expatparent.   I offer services to parents, parents-to-be, and new arrivals to Switzerland.  I also lead workshops for perinatal professionals.  From Consultations, to Workshops & Groups, to Online Support, the options are diverse.  I also write blogs that cover topics relevant to expatriate parents (as the page name suggests!).  Take a look through my pages, below at the blogs, or use the search to browse through old topics.

Water Safety

Drowning doesn't look like drowningAlong with this week’s posts about health and safety and staying safe in the summer heat, comes a repost about ensuring you are safe IN THE WATER. The images about Water Safety go viral every summer season and I’m hoping they go viral again this week, at least in Switzerland, in anticipation of this weekend’s hot weather (after a week of rain I’m sure everyone is desperate to get out into the water!).

Like I say every summer, let the image on the right remind us all that drowning, or what we think of as drowning, REALLY DOESN’T LOOK like drowning at all.  The Instinctive Drowning Response – so named by Francesco A. Pia, Ph.D., is what people do to avoid actual or perceived suffocation in the water. There is very little splashing, no waving, and no yelling or calls for help of any kind.

Drowning, is Silent, Unmoving, easily missed. 

It is easily missed: it is the number two cause of accidental death in children age 15 and under (just behind vehicle accidents) and of the approximately 750 children who will drown next year, about 375 of them will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult. In ten percent of those drownings, the adult will actually watch them do it, having no idea it is happening (source: CDC).

So stay close to your kids, make sure you can see them.  Make sure you see them MOVING AROUND, splashing.  Set up swimming buddy and supervision systems.  If you are at a public pool or beach with a lifeguard, remember these lifeguards (garde-bains) are there in case disaster strikes, not to prevent disaster from occurring in the first place (prevention is your job as the parent).  And be careful of hot bodies and COLD water (such as jumping from a hot boat to cold lake water). Another combination that can have awful consequences.

The summer is back, let’s ensure we have fun in the sun!

Protecting your Kids and Pets in the Heat/Sun

The sun and the heat are finally going to make an appearance, so it’s time to remind parents and pet owners about what they can do to keep everyone safe from the sun:


22′C and sunny is no way to die

1. Protect kids and pets (and parents) from the heat:

  • Aerate rooms when it’s cool (such as in the early morning and late evening)
  • Prioritise activities in the early morning and/or in the shade
  • Avoid sun exposure
: Remember a hat, loose t-shirt and sunscreen
 (and even a parasol!)
  • Never leave a child or animal alone in a car or elsewhere even with a window open (not for a second, never mind a few minutes).  See this post on What Happens to a toddler left 15 minutes in a hot car.

2. Take time to Cool down

  • Cool down with tepid showers or a cool damp cloth
 (but no jumping into frigid water, the quick temperature changes are hard on the body)
  • Offer water regularly (or for breastfed babies, breastfeed often, no water is necessary).
  • Offer cold, light and refreshing meals and snacks (salads, fruits, etc.)
  • Use lightweight clothing

Protect our Kids in the Heat

3. Take special care of sick children & the elderly

  • Pay special attention to children and adults with chronic, cardio-vascular, or neurological illnesses
  • Watch for signs of exhaustion and fatigue as well as for dryness of the skin and lips
  • If you are unsure of the health of your child, consult a doctor, especially in cases of diarrhea (risk of extreme dehydration)

Do you have “special tricks” for staying cool in the heat? Comment below.

Additional Resources on Coping in the Heat:

Safe during the summer holidays

After a week of rain, the weather promises to be warm and sunny for the rest of the week.  And hopefully for the rest of the summer.  We are a few weeks into the summer holidays, we may have a new summer routine or may live each day following our own rhythms and the weather.

In addition to being safe around water and the sun, it is easy to forget the rest.  But health & safety should be at the top of the list: accidental injuries are one of the leading health problems in developed countries such as Switzerland.   Why is it important for us expats in Switzerland?  According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (highlighting my own):

  1. Most accidents happen between late afternoon and early evening, in the summer, during school holidays and at weekends
  2. Factors such as stress, death in the family, chronic illness, homelessness or moving home increase the likelihood of the child having an accident
  3. Some happen when the usual routine is changed or when people are in a hurry
  4. Distractions and inadequate supervision are often the cause of accidents
  5. Poor housing and overcrowded conditions lead to increased numbers of accidents
  6. Some accidents are caused by lack of familiarity with surroundings, for example, when visiting friends or relatives, or in holiday accommodation.

I have highlighted in each of the six points what is relevant to us expatriates and in the summer — and well.. I highlighted something from each of the points!

So what can we do?  An obvious one is to stay vigilant at home, en route, and at your final destination.  “It won’t happen to me” is not an attitude to take.  It could.  Moreover, as parents, no matter the age of our children, we should not only be aware of our own actions, but we should also ensure our children are well supervised.  Children are inquisitive, love horseplay, have immature reactions to stress, love attention, and are less experienced so cannot anticipate or mitigate against an accident, so are more likely to wind up in precarious situations compared to adults.  And in the hot sun and around water and fire (think outdoor BBQs and campfires), recipe for disaster!  I’m sure many a reader has a story to tell, some which now bring laughs (but could have brought catastrophe) and others which actually do remind us of hardship.

Another thing to do is be prepared!  This means know what to do in case an accident happens.  It’s a bit late now to take courses, but in the future consider workshops held by HealthFirst & Healthy & Safe Away from Home, two organisations that offer First Aid & CPR Courses to parents, carers, others, IN ENGLISH, in Switzerland.

And don’t forget fire safety & your fire extinguisher!  A fire should never be left unattended, but even attended a candle can be knocked over causing a fire (campers beware!).  If you are around fire, a fire extinguishers is a good idea and can be found in most hardware stores (Brico-Loisirs) or through online safety shops such as mompreneur-run website familysafety.ch.  Fire safety can also be discussed with your children; government organisations such as the US’s FEMA has tips & tricks online showing families how to prepare.

And finally for safety are water safety and sun safety.  Summers in Switzerland are hot.  Heat waves (la canicule) are common.  Exercise common sense when out in the sun: hats and loose-fitting clothes for adults and kids alike and avoid midday sun if possible (read more). And as an alpine country in the middle of Europe there are lots of waterways, tributaries and lakes and we are only a few hours drive or flight from the sea.  Lifeguards are often there but they are not babysitters, so keep your children in your sights and set up swimming buddy systems (only in the water if your friend/sibling with you). And remember: lifeguards intervene AFTER a disaster has already struck, supervision is preventative.  And finally, if you are on a personal boat, wear a life-jacket.  The cold water after sitting in the hot sun, even if you know how to swim, can be shocking and debilitating.

Stay safe this season!


This blog post first posted in the Winter of 2014, edited July 2014 as a summer edition.