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Seven Tips To Help Children Overcome Fear of the Water

It’s your child’s first day of swim lessons. You’ve been counting down the days until they begin their swim journey, and they’ve been counting down the “sleeps” until they can jump into the pool! But what happens if the day arrives with more apprehension than anticipation and tears are close to the surface? Rest assured that this is natural. Apprehension around the water is a common feeling for many tots and can be a point of pause for many parents, especially those investing valuable time and money into swim lessons.  

At Aqua-Tots, we know how challenging it can be to sit back and watch your little one cry, but we’re here to soothe your worries and your tot’s tears.

Seven Tips to Overcome a Fear of Swimming

It’s easy to let your mind wander when your child is in meltdown mode. “What will other parents think? How embarrassing! Should I get my child out of the pool?” Veteran swim parents will tell you that they get it. “Been there, done that. It’s going to be ok.” Remain calm and encouraging so that your child is ready and excited to jump back in at their next lesson. And if the water gets your little one anxious, here are seven tips to help your child overcome swimming anxiety: 

1. Determine Why Your Child is Apprehensive

While some children are too small to adequately describe their feelings, you may have a pretty good idea already. Is swimming new?  Sometimes it’s just the sights, sounds, feelings and smells of a new environment that can be overwhelming. Sometimes it’s unfamiliar instructors and new friends that they don’t know well (yet). Age and separation anxiety also go hand-in-hand when a child feels uneasy. If you notice your child turning to find you often, consider stepping out of sight. They’ll calm down more quickly and learn to focus on their swim instructor who is there with all kinds of fun ways to get them splashing happily. Time and patience are the big factors that will help with resolving these issues. 

2. Make Swim Lessons A Bonding Experience

If your child is still too small to swim independently, Parent & Tot classes are available for you to bond with your baby as early as four months old. Because water is an adaptive environment, the earlier your little one begins consistent swim lessons, the more quickly they can begin to adjust. In our Parent & Tot classes, your little one will be learning and you will be gaining confidence handling your curious tot in water. Together, you’ll begin a journey to a lifetime of water safety.

3. Set Realistic Expectations for Swim Lessons

It’s their lesson and they’ll cry if they want to. All children cry—some cry at daycare, some at bedtime. Some cry because the sky is blue or the goldfish looked at them funny. Crying during swim lessons is completely natural and no reason to worry. Two of the most common reasons for tears include hunger and exhaustion. Consider giving them a light, healthy snack prior to lessons, and make sure their lessons are scheduled far from naptime.  

Wondering how long your little one will shed those tears in swim lessons? Check out our infographic below to see how frequency in swim lessons can help wipe those tears away.

4. Remain Positive About Your Child’s Experience with Water

Every child loves a cheerleader, especially when the one cheering is Mom or Dad. Nothing soothes a skeptical mood like a happy, confident parent or caregiver encouraging and praising them for every accomplishment no matter how small (blowing bubbles) or large (perfecting a challenging stroke). As the adult, your role is to remain calm. Your steadiness will help your child settle down more quickly, and your commitment to positivity will help them soar through their newfound swimming skills.

5. Practice Water Time At Home

Let them play in the water (always while supervised). Between lessons, spend time at splash parks, in baby pools, public pools, the bathtub and shower. Bring toys, let them have fun and practice swimming skills such as holding their breath, water submersions, etc. These are all great places that will help familiarize your child with the water.

6. Be Consistent with Swimming Lessons

If your child cried while being buckled into their car seat, you’d quickly remind them how important it is to remain buckled. The same is true for swim lessons! We understand that when your child is scared of swimming lessons, regular participation can be a challenge. Similar to reading and writing, practice and repetition are vital for success. Skipping or discontinuing swim lessons inhibits swim skill progression and will extend the time it takes to learn how to swim safely. With 30 years of swim instruction experience, we know that consistency through the Aqua-Tots Swim Journey is absolutely essential to your child’s lifelong safety in and around the water.

7. Trust the Water Safety Professionals

Our Aqua-Tots Water Safety Instructors are certified instructors that are hand-selected and intentionally trained to help children learn to love the water. They are here to build trust with your child in the water through proven methods, small class sizes and LOTS of FUN! If your child is apprehensive at first, they may recommend that you sit out of sight until your swim coach has a chance to help your tot discover the fun they will have. For a parent, that may prove to be a challenge, but it is often the best thing for your child. 

At Aqua-Tots Swim Schools, we want your child to experience all the fun and freedom that comes from knowing how to swim safely. That’s why we’re here to work through the tears and to encourage you and your little one along the way. Those red chairs are here just for you, and they’re made for relaxing. We’ll overcome any fear of swimming together with patience, practice, praise, trust and smiles. We’ll see you at the pool.

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