While many children have a natural love of the water, for some children swimming is a very real and prominent fear. Learning how to swim is an essential safety skill. It also makes lake days, beach days, and pool days more enjoyable for everyone involved when a child feels safe and comfortable in the water. However, combating a child’s fear of the water can be tiring, aggravating, and sometimes, downright unsuccessful. Read about five ways to combat your child’s fear of the water at home, so that swimming lessons with FINS and pool days can go smoother this summer.
1. Acknowledge the Fear
Your child has a very real reason to be afraid of the water if they do not know how to swim. A big body of water where they cannot stand and they have to rely on someone else to hold them can definitely make for a scary environment.
Try to not dismiss your child’s fear as irrational or irrelevant. Instead of feeling frustrated, reassure them that you understand the cause of their fear, but that through swimming lessons and other practices, their fear can be temporary.
2. Explain the Importance of Swimming Lessons
Many children develop a fear of the water because they know the consequences of not being able to swim: drowning. This is extremely important for children to understand and recognize. However, it is just as important to assure your child that drowning can be prevented through swimming lessons. Discuss, if only briefly, the benefits that swimming lessons will have not only on your child’s safety, but also on their social and personal life. For example, remind your child of how comfortability in the water will allow them to have fun with friends and family at the beach or in the pool.
3. Increase Exposure
The more a child is around something, the more he or she becomes comfortable with it. Exposure to the water can be anything from bath time to pool days watching older siblings swim. If you find that your child develops a fear of the water at the beginning of the summer, consider swimming indoors in the off months to increase your child’s exposure to the water. Even if your child is not swimming, simple splashing in the kiddy pool or watching others swim in the water can show the child that when comfortable and safe, the water is not frightening.
4. Start Slow
This is a tip that FINS utilizes in swimming lessons, but can apply to your home as well. Ease your child into the water by sitting with them on the edge and kicking, blowing bubbles, and getting wet. When a child is accompanied by an adult they trust, he or she is much more likely to push past their level of comfort and try new things in the water. Your child will not go from an intense fear of the water to dunking their head into the water in one swimming lesson or pool visit. It will take lots of time and trust, but taking things slow and introducing new ways to play safely can increase your child’s comfortability in the water.
5. Give Your Child Praise
Children respond very well to praise, especially from those they love. So, the next time your child accomplishes something in the water, even though it may seem small to you, shower them with words of affirmation. This is something FINS uses in swimming lessons and it has a positive effect. When a child receives praise, they feel proud of themselves, and they are more likely to push themselves to do something to earn that praise again. Praise, reassurance, and encouragement from parents, siblings, friends, and instructors is ultimately what will make your child take the leap from scared to skilled.
Every parent wants to see their child succeed in swimming lessons, but intense fear of the water can prove to be a major roadblock in a child’s development in and out of the pool. Implementing these 5 ways to help combat your child’s fear of the water can slowly but surely start the path to equipping your child with the tools they need to be successful and safe in any body of water. FINS encourages families to try out a few of these tactics in the upcoming months to allow your child to help your child become successful with swim lessons!
Anna Kopf will be returning in her dual role as the FINS Administrative Assistant and Swim Lesson Instructor for Summer 2023!