It is perfectly normal for human beings to be afraid of entering water. We are hardwired to know instinctively what is inherently unsafe, and water fits into that category. However, depending on a person’s genetics, history and early childhood exposure, the level of fear can vary greatly.
All parents want their kids to learn to swim. When a child is scared it may seem like to the best option is to start looking for the quickest way to get them into the water “like all the other kids”. The most difficult part about fear is that we never really know what is causing it and we don’t know how ingrained or intense the fear is. A child may seem terrified one minute and the next minute be bomb-diving on top of their sibling. Or a child may seem to want to swim and then all of a sudden panic and run from the pool – at Agua we see both extremes and all the in-betweens.
Parents usually have a good idea why their kids don’t want to swim, but sometimes there is something causing children to act very strangely that parents are not yet aware of. The difficult part is finding that balance between encouraging kids outside of their comfort zone without pushing them to the point where they develop an even bigger anxiety towards the activity.
If you are a parent with an anxious swimmer, it is normal and your child will eventually overcome the fear. It’s natural to imagine worst-case scenarios in which children will be left behind or lose confidence. Usually when a child is scared of swimming the parent’s fear is drowning followed by their child developing poor self esteem or not being ‘normal’. The worst thing to do is assume your child is being disobedient or start threatening them as this usually makes the process longer. Children feed off the energy and attitude of the adults around them and a calm approach is needed when solving the issue of nervous swimmers.
Try your best to identify what you think the swimmer is actually afraid of. Is it separation anxiety? Some kids understandably don’t want to go into the pool with strangers sometimes and some have an intense fear of being away from mum or dad.
3 Ways You Can Help
1. Practice Breath Control At Home
Even if you’re not sure what is causing the fear, you can always start practicing breath control at home The most stress-free way is to start without water and simply hold the breath. The next step is to introduce a small bowl or dish of water, then you can move to the bath and so on as the child develops confidence.
2. Use Role Models
It’s very powerful for children to see others safely enjoying water and having fun. This can be older siblings, complete strangers or even animals (did you know cows are good swimmers?). The point is not to threaten or push your child into being like others with statements like… ‘look if he can do it why can’t you’?. It’s to let them naturally observe and allow their internal motivation-to-learn slowly take over.
3. Start In A Shallow Pool
You want to make the first steps for an anxious swimmer as easy as possible. Dark, deep pools are not inviting for children and can increase anxiety. So if it’s possible, take them somewhere that is shallow and allows the child to explore safely. A calm beach is a great way for children to learn to interact with water while having the security of the ground beneath them.
4. Use Agua LearnToSwim For At-Home Swim Lessons
With at-home swim lessons your kids will get personalised swim instruction without ever leaving their home. Just make an appointment and relax as your kids learn. During an at-home swim lesson, a certified agua instructor will assess your child’s abilities and begin providing personalised swim lessons. At-home swim lessons are the perfect answer for families with busy schedules. This takes the guess work out of the weekly schedule. You will no longer have your child being nervous or scared of learning to swim in a foreign environment. Our at-home swim lessons are a great way to use your and your child’s time more efficiently.
It is normal for children to be hesitant about swimming. There are many things that can cause anxiety around water and it is difficult to know what course of action to take unless you understand what is causing the anxiety. In our experience, the first person who needs to relax at swimming lessons is the parent. The next thing to do is calmly begin the process of learning what is causing the fear. And then gradually introduce your child to the tips mentioned above.