Parenting teens can be difficult. They’re at an age where they want to assert their independence and identity, but still need guidance. They don’t always realize how fragile life is and can often make decisions that are contrary to what their parents want for them.

You can talk to them all day about water tragedies and show them stories about drownings, however chances are they may not take them seriously or personally. They’ll throw every excuse at you for reasons to not wear a PFD; “I can swim”, “I don’t intend on going in the water”, “PFDs are ugly, hot and bulky”. Trust me, we’ve heard them all. It’s easy as a parent to feel like you’re in an unwinnable battle with your teens over something as simple (and important) as wearing a PFD when on the water. You shouldn’t have to bribe someone to wear something that could save their life. With some creativity and understanding you can make wearing a PFD ‘cool’ and a habit they carry well into adulthood.

Here are some suggestions on how to encourage PFD wear from your teen:

Lead By Example: If you’re not wearing your PFD chances are your teen won’t want to wear one either. It is just as important for you as a parent to be wearing your PFD each time you head out on the water.

The ‘Cool Factor’- selecting the correct style PFD: PFDs have come a long way since the 90’s and truth be told, you get what you pay for. If you’re buying a cheap $20 PFD then very likely yes, it will be uncomfortable, bulky, hot, restrict your range motion and ride up.

Today’s PFD technology has vastly improved and has made wearing a PFD more comfortable than ever. Designs have been modified with specific watersports and constant wear in mind.

Softer foam and rounded edges help the PFD provide exceptional comfort and conforms to the wearers body.

Large armholes and better foam distribution make it so the wearer has unrestricted range of motion. No longer do you have the PFD hitting you against the chin or chaffing under your arms.

Encourage them to try it on to see how it feels before they give you the ‘it’s too bulky’ or ‘it’s too hot’ excuses’. Chances are they won’t appreciate the value until they have it on and can feel the difference. Plus, if you pick one with a pocket large enough to fit a cell phone in a waterproof case, that may be motivation itself.

Purchasing a premium brand product can also make teens feel less ‘dorky’.  It’s the same reason they beg you for the $200 sneakers with logos all over instead of the $20 no name brand that does the same job. Your child’s life is worth the investment to buy a quality PFD that is comfortable to wear all day long.

It is important to know that inflatable PFDs are NOT approved under the following conditions:

  • Anyone under 16 years of age.
  • Anyone who weighs less than 36.6 kg or 80 lbs.
  • Use on personal watercraft/jet-ski.
  • White water paddling activities.

The ‘Cool Factor’- Selecting a Colour: Colour, or lack of, can be a huge part in why someone does or doesn’t want to wear something. While Some teens may want to stand out with bubble-gum pink or yellow, others may want to be sleek and have everything be all black. Let them pick the one they WANT to wear. If they’re reaching for the dark navy or black PFD over the bright orange or yellow- let them. There’s no point investing in the bright orange for it to be used as a seat cushion if they want the black or blue to up their cool factor. Though some parents may argue over visibility on the water, a darker colour like navy or black will still keep them afloat if anything should happen.

Enroll them in a Course or Program: One of the first things they teach you in any boating, paddling, or sailing course is about safety- which includes proper PFD wear. There are a lot of instructors who are teens or young adults themselves. Perhaps learning from someone who is not their parent and is more their age will drive home the importance of wearing a PFD. Finding people they look up to, such as a wakeboard or boating instructor, can be huge for developing proper on-water habits such as wearing a PFD.

Habits are not created or changed overnight. It may not happen every time you’re out on the water but with persistence and seeing people in PFDs they may start to reach for it without putting up a fight.

Courtesy of SALUS Marine Wear

All SALUS Marine Wear products are available to CPS-ECP members at 20% off the full retail price in the current year’s catalogue.

The 20% discount is only available when Salus products are purchased through and is NOT available through any other Salus dealer or outlet.

Visit for a list of products.