Teaching Kids How To Not Fear Water
When my kids were born, I began to investigate how to make the water a positive experience for them. Several moms had told me their young child had really been fearful of being in the water. I wanted to be prepared, and not accidentally do something that would make my child afraid of the water.
How To Not Fear Water
Go Slow—ParentMap.com suggests that if you see your child exhibiting a fear of the water, it’s important to respect that fear, and address it. That made me feel a lot better about ignoring that old idea of “just throw them in the deep end.” In my opinion, that is such a potentially damaging and scarring thing to do to a child that I was glad to eliminate it right up front. A child may have gotten a mouth full of water at some point, and still has a panic reaction to not being able to catch their breath. If the child shows signs of this, don’t rush them into the water, but recognize and address the fear.
Start at the Beginning—If your child shows signs of being afraid of the water, you may want to take it back a few steps and introduce them to the water very gradually. One of my boys took to water so easily that when my younger son showed some fear, I had to rethink the whole concept and slow down. I encouraged my son to try holding his breath when he was in the shower—somewhere he felt safe—so that he could see that he could be in the water and not be in danger of losing his breath. I took these steps very slowly with him, so he wouldn’t feel overwhelmed.
Gradually Move Into the Water—We started out just sitting by the side of the pool, dangling our feet in the water. (In my case, we had to ignore my other son splashing joyfully not far away.) I watched as my son got comfortable with sitting partly in the pool, and learned that it was not a bad thing. We then moved to the shallow end, and let him start to put his legs in the water, then up to his hips and later neck deep. I saw him grow more and more comfortable. Then I asked him to hold his breath, and I poured a little water over his head. When he could catch his breath after the water fell away, I could see a light go on—this water wasn’t a bad thing in pool-sized quantities. I thought that was a great stopping point, so we got out of the water—from my research for PoolCenter.com, I knew I wanted to leave him with a positive memory of the water.
Step Out a Little Further—During our next session, I suggested he try holding his breath, and just ducking his head under the water. I showed him what I was asking, and ducked under the water myself. I was watching for him to hesitate, but it was surprising how quickly he responded (I think he had been practicing in the shower). He held his breath, slowly sank down until his head was under the water, then quickly popped back up. I was standing next to him in case he had a problem, but not holding him, so he could do it on his own. The next time he went under a bit more quickly, and stayed a little longer. I could see that he had stretched far enough for that day, so we stopped. I let him determine the pace.
Make it About Fun—It’s supposed to be fun to be in the water, so I reinforced that with my son. At this point, when he watched his brother have so much fun, that started to work for us—he was beginning to associate water and fun. I reinforced that by talking to my son who was fearful, and kept telling him how much fun it would be when he learned to really play in the water.
I later reflected on the learning time spent with my younger son, as I watched both my boys laughing and splashing in the water. I was so glad I had gone slow, honored his fear, and not forced my son to go into the water more quickly than was right for him.
Becky Flanigan writes freelance articles for PoolCenter.com. Becky enjoys spending time and travelling with her husband, 3 kids, and 2 golden retrievers. She spends many happy hours at the family swimming pool, watching the kids and dogs splash and play. She is also an avid gardener—and even helps friends landscape and decorate their yards.
When did your kids start taking swimming lessons?