For most children, swimming is a fun way of learning new skills and developing skills that they already possess. But for a significant few, it can be a traumatic time because they have a fear of water. This can manifest itself as crying, screaming, flat-out refusal to take part, clinging to parents or simply ignoring instructions. If you find yourself faced with a child lacking in water confidence, try these ideas designed to build their confidence.
Start Young. Young babies show no fear of water - this fear is acquired later on in childhood. The sooner you expose your child to water, splashing games and the feeling of water on their faces and bodies, the less likely they are to become fearful.
Take your child/children swimming as often as you can - Just playing with your child outside of lesson times and letting them feel in control can help them gain confidence quickly.
Be patient – don’t lose your temper or try and force your child to perform the things they are not ready for. This will create a negative environment for the child, add pressure for them and a feeling of failure.
Be encouraging – celebrate every small achievement – no matter how small it seems for you! For a child that is not comfortable putting their eyes in the water simply pouring water on their face successfully is a big deal – celebrate all their achievements and give positive reinforcement.
Keep the communication open with your child’s instructor – let them know what your child is worried about so that their instructor can help address the issue in class.
Try not to compare your child to other children – each child has their own individual journey with swimming, comparing them to other children is like comparing oranges and apples – each is completely different!
Children who are scared of water need to see water play as fun, free of unpleasantness and fear, and something which they can share with friends and family. By taking it slowly and at your child's own pace, and trying the different methods described above, you should be able to make the experience of swimming much more positive. Good luck and have fun!