My wife and I have 3 kids - girls ages 13 and 9, and a son, who is 6. WE have been sailing for 5 years now, starting on a 22', then a 28', and now a 35'. When we are under way, if the kids are on deck they need to wear a PFD. If they are below they don't.
When the wind picks up and the boat heels, I will notify them before we change tacks (or gybe). My wife is great about heeling, and doesn't complain until we heel more than 20 degree. To be honest, I don't much like heeling more than 20 degrees either.
When the boat is heeling, the kids will sit on the high side if they are on deck, and on the lower settee (or cabin sole) if they are below. Moving around below can be difficult, and they have, on occassion, fallen down. Fortunately, they have not been hurt. Yes, they could probably be safer somewhere else, but you know what? They have also fallen off bicycles, skateboards, and scooters and gotten a few bumps and bruises doing that too.
Personally, I don't care if they stay on deck or go below in rough weather. When it's stessful for me (docking in difficult conditions, lower sail on a windy day, etc.) I ask them to stay in one place and to not speak to me for a while. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
Deep Blue C, 2002 C&C 110
Mt. Sinai, NY
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