With the summer upon us, spending time at the pool is a more regular occurrence. But what if your child has a fear of swimming? It can be tough to pin point exactly what the issue is, but we have a few ways that you can help your child overcome the fear and learn to enjoy time in the water safely.
When starting to work with a child who is afraid of the water, be sure and start slow. There is a theory that if a child is forced into the water very quickly (such as throwing them in) they will see that there is little to fear. This tactic is likely to deepen their fear of the water, and possibly dissolve trust in the person who forced them into the water.
The better angle is to address what their fear is; is it the temperature of the water? The feeling of water in their ears? Worry about going under and not being able to breathe? Talk through their fears. If they are too young to articulate their fears, start with letting them simply sit on the side of the pool with their feet in and no expectation of getting in the water. Let them warm up to the full plunge naturally.
Kids look to their parents as a safe place, and having that safe place suddenly pushing you towards something you don’t want to do – like swimming – can be emotional. Some children find it easier to learn from a professional swim instructor instead. Many recreational pools and municipal pools offer discounted or even free instructional classes.
Leading by example can be a very powerful. Instead of asking your child to do something alone, do it with them! Blow bubbles in the water together. Go under together. Hang on the wall and kick your legs. Simple things like this can go a long way for building not only trust, but easing anxiety too.
As part of taking it slow, make the process fun too! Not all pool time has to be swimming laps or diving to the deep end, enjoy some fun pool games and toys as well. Simple toys like cups, pots, spoons and other kitchen items are ideal for pouring and playing. Small cars or plastic animals can be exciting to “drive” and “dive” around the shallow end. And don’t forget how much fun squirt guns are too!
Sometimes something as simple as a new bathing suit, pair of goggles, or other swim accessories can make a big difference in a child’s willingness to hop in the pool.
Last but not least, be patient with the process. Frustration can make a child feel even more anxious. Setting expectations with your child such as “we’re going to the pool today to play and splash, but not go under water” can help decrease anxiety, leaving lots of room for growth. Being patient when your child displays signs of fear and anxiety will help them continue to trust you and open the door to new experiences in the pool.
Need some more fun summertime activities? Click over to our post about how to beat the summertime blues! And always watch your children around water.
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