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Dock Talk: Teach your kids about thin ice danger

Thin sheets of ice begin forming around the lakeshores each year at this time. Educating children about ice safety and keeping an eye on domestic pets is a responsible act for parents and pet owners. (Jason Durham / For the Enterprise)

­­­ If you're a parent and have yet to sit down to talk with your kids, now's the time.

Yes, it's imperative to ask about grades, peer pressure, saying "no" to drugs and alcohol, but now is the time to talk about ice.

As the nighttime temperatures dip below freezing and daytime highs fail to deplete the skin of ice gradually forming on our lakes and ponds, parents are encouraged to take an active role in their child's welfare.

If your residence is along lakeshore, this is imperative. If you don't own lakeshore, education still equates to safety.

Often times, children wander to the water's edge and upon witnessing the sheet of ice covering the lake, pick up a rock to toss out. Seeing the ice withstand the force of their throw gives a false sense of security that it can support their own body weight if they walk upon it.

I have three suggestions for adults; teach, preach and supervise.

n Teach your children that ice is never 100 percent safe and neither early ice nor late ice is something kids should explore on their own. Three to four inches of clear is recommended as a minimum for foot travel.

n Preach to your children that they should stay away from thin ice. Be firm and diligent. Stating your expectations once isn't enough. Reiterating this is required for juvenile understanding.

n Finally, supervise them while at home, check in with friend's parents when they head to play dates and realize the only way to ensure safety is to play an active role.

Think about this; you repetitively ask your child to turn off lights when they leave the room, but it still happens. So if you ask your child to stay away from the lakeshore when the ice begins to form, there is a chance that they may fail to follow through. Diligent observation by the parent is a must.

Beyond children, animals should also have some parameters enforced. Because most pets lack the foresight to predict what might happen if they walk upon thin ice, owners should restrict their pets' free reign until the ice is three or four inches thick.

This doesn't mean you should continuously kennel your retriever. Consider a leash for walks or even an invisible fence to guard from wandering. We all want our pets to live happy lives and get plenty of exercise, but curiosity can cause problems near lakes.

A flock of ducks resting in a remaining puddle of open water, a family of playful otters, or a multitude of other animals often engages an investigation from the family pet. It's simply instinctual.

Thinking about your own safety can be difficult if you happen to witness a domestic or wild animal in danger because of thin ice.

Aiding in an immediate animal rescue can create a dangerous or even fatal situation for the human. Hypothermia is likely.

Instead, contact the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department. Allow them to contact the proper agency to respond, though, unfortunately, sometimes it's too risky.