Learning to swim is an important skill that should be learned at an early age. This is great for parents of eager swimmers but what do you do if your child is fearful of the water? The following tips can help ease your child into the water.
Take your Child’s Fears Seriously
Children need empathy and support when they are facing a fearful situation, such as swimming. Listen to your child’s fears about the water and make them feel understood. When a child feels like he can express his fears to you, he will become more open and explicit about what it is that scares him about swimming. Perhaps it is a fear of drowning, a fear of getting water in his ears or something that you had never even thought of, until you asked. Once you know what is scaring your child about the water, you can better work to remedy that fear.
Use Water aids—for a while
It is perfectly acceptable to use whatever toys or equipment it takes to get over a fear, but it’s important that your child practice swimming without goggles and floaties too. If a child becomes too dependent upon these devices, accidental drowning can occur if they fall in without their water aids and panic. Implement water aids when needed, but be careful not to let your child become too dependent upon them.
Create Small Goals
Meet your child where they are. If they are afraid to even get wet at all, make putting their feet in the water a goal. Once they feel comfortable sitting on the side with their feet in the water, make the next goal standing in the water up to their waist. Small, incremental goals will help your child build the confidence necessary to begin to swim.
Know When to Take a Break
Once your child shows disinterest in the situation, allow her to take a break. Especially for a child who is already unsure of the water, there is no reason to push it too far. This may be a good time to have a snack, take a short nap, or or play a game out of the water. By making each and every experience around the water positive, your child will likely come to love the water!
In teaching a fearful child how to swim, there are several methods you can use. First off, acknowledge their fear and let them know that you understand. Allow them to use water aids at first, but don’t allow them to become dependent upon them. Create small goals and move forward, and lastly, know when it’s time to take a break.