Do you have a child who is afraid of getting into the water? Afraid of swimming?
Children who are afraid of swimming are at risk of becoming adults who are afraid of swimming. This fear can prevent people from the fun of swimming, as well as the health and safety benefits. Early swimming lessons provide tons of benefits for young children, but fear can get in the way if it is not handled well.
There are many signs of fear in children. In very young children, we can see their fear of water manifest through crying, screaming, trying to get away, avoiding the water, freezing up, or clinging to their parents or caregivers in the water. In older children, fear may show up through non-stop talking as a way of delaying getting into the water, or chattering teeth as if the child is cold.
Fear cessation must be accomplished before a child can learn to swim. A child who is terrified is not going to be able to swim confidently. Sometimes, well meaning parents or poorly trained swim instructors attempt to use a “sink or swim” approach to swim lessons. When this happens, children can become traumatized by their experiences, especially if they do not feel safe with or supported by the adults who are supposed to be teaching them.
Eliminating a child’s fear of swimming should be done with thoughtfulness, care, and love.
Part of having fun and building confidence is taking a child-centered approach to swimming lessons. Your child brings their own unique personality, starting level of coordination, sensitivity to new water sensations, self-talk, openness to new experiences, natural confidence, and body awareness into the pool with them... and more. Our coaches are trained to get to know your child well so they can work with him or her best. If you're attempting to coach your own child, you know him or her really well already - use what you know to your advantage, show patience and work with your child.
Provide your child with the support they need to learn to swim at their own pace.
Learning to swim is a lot like learning to ride a bike, except it's often treated completely different. When we teach our kids to ride a bike, we work up to the real deal slowly and start them on tricycles or with training wheels. But for some reason with swimming, many parents and coaches like to skip the "training wheels" and start their child in swimming lessons without any floatation support.
Could you imagine the first time you put your child on a two-wheeled bike, starting them at on the top of a hill, giving them a little push to start and sending them down with your fingers crossed? That's a terrifying thought and yet that's a normal practice in swimming lessons.
One of the most important tools we use in our lessons is a progressive training vest, which starts beginner swimmers with floatation support on the chest and back without restricting their arms. Once we take away the fear of "falling" or sinking, your child will find the confidence to try new and potentially intimidating skills.
Can you have fun when you're scared? Most people can't and I've never met a child who could. By starting a beginner swimmer out with the support of a floatation training vest, they can let loose and enjoy their time in the water. Once a child is having fun in the water, they are open to trying new skills which will allow you (or a coach) to help them develop movement muscle-memory and coordination that'll be necessary to successfully learning new skills.
The progressive training vest we recommend is the Power Swmr by SwimWays. It's one of the biggest tools that allow children to thrive in their lesson while we stay within our motto: Have Fun! Build Confidence! - once we're doing those two things then Swimming Safer is the inevitable outcome.
Having fun is the handiest tool in your tool box
The research is in and its conclusive, kids learn best when they're having fun! That's why we designed our curriculum so that every skill can be taught as a quick and fun game that captures the natural curiosity and creativity of kids. Fun is woven into everything we do, it's even a focal point of the name of our beginner swimming level - FUNdamentals.
When it comes to having fun with your child, you have a natural leg up on any coach because you already know what he or she finds fun and we have to learn as we go. You can use this to your advantage and make small tweaks to teaching any skill so that it draws your child into an imagination engaging theme or easy to play along game. This is what we do in the water on the fly with your kids when they join one of our FUNdamentals classes.
Remember, your attitude matters a lot! If you're not having fun, things won't be much fun for your child either. Our coaches are taught to keep mindful of everything from the tone of their voice, to using vocal inflections and animated facial expressions. This doesn't mean you should fake-it, but means you should allow yourself to relax, let loose and thoroughly enjoy this uninterrupted time with your child.
Sometimes children need help overcoming natural fear and discomfort before they can Have Fun and Build Confidence
If your child is uncomfortable in the water, the first thing we have to do is to understand why. One of the best ways to do this is to shrink yourself down and find out what this experience looks like through their eyes. Do you know why your child is uncomfortable?
Parents often mistake discomfort for fear. Although fear and discomfort can manifest in similar ways, including crying, shivering, or avoiding the water altogether, they are not always the same thing. We often hear from parents who think their children are afraid of the water, when the situation is actually something different: their child is uncomfortable in the water or uncomfortable with the new experience of swim lessons.
Discomfort in the water can be fear-based, sensory-driven, or associated with a negative or stressful memory. It can also be as simple as a child being worried about the unknown: what happens if I go underwater? What happens if my mom lets go of me? What happens if my dad is too far away? What happens if I go in the deep end? What happens if I can’t get out of the pool?
At The Swim Revolution, our teachers get to know your child at their level and help determine fear and discomfort early in the process. Once we know what is causing their discomfort we can make the appropriate action plan for getting your child to feel at ease in the water. Extinguishing discomfort and establishing comfort is always the first priority.
Want to learn more?
We are excited to offer these lessons in a regular way at our Vinings, GA based swim school. You can check back to our blog for 8 more lessons on how to teach your child to swim. You can also find out more by signing up for this course over email. We will provide you with lessons and links to each of the 9 essential skills to teach your child to swim!
And of course, we would love to see you in our FUNdamentals class here in Atlanta. You can enroll online, or contact us to get more information. Check out our class schedule online to find a time that works for you. We look forward to getting to know you!