Regardless of what’s causing the fear, it’s important to help your child overcome it, so they can learn to swim and to be safe in the water at the earliest possible age.
Here are the 5 steps to teach kids afraid of water to swim.
Step 1. Help kids become comfortable to happily and willingly enter the pool.
Step 2. Once in the water, help kids feel comfortable being held by you.
Step 3. Kids become more independent in the water.
Step 4. Children overcome the feeling of “falling” under the water.
Step 5. Kids have the confidence to swim completely on their own.
Keep in mind that not all children have the same level of fear. Begin with the step appropriate for your child and always progress through steps at the child’s pace.
We have already discussed Step 1 in our previous post. You can review it here.
Step 2: Once in the water, help kids feel comfortable being held by you.
Your aqua phobic child has finally joined you in the water – a new and scary environment for him/her. Put yourself in your child shoes…think about your worst fear…just because someone tells you you shouldn’t be afraid, it doesn’t make your fear go away. So it is very important that you continue to make your child feel safe and continue to acknowledge any cues from them.
What kids with aqua phobia fear is falling into the water.
Once your child has joined you in the water, hold them close in whatever position is most comfortable for them.
We recommend using one of two hold positions until your child becomes comfortable: the protective hold and the hip hold. In this video we explain each holding position.
Practice the following techniques in the water:
- Sit on the edge of the pool together until your swimmer becomes comfortable around the Splash your feet.
- Bring your swimmer into the pool slowly. Hold them in either the hip hold or the protective hold and walk slowly around the
- Bounce up and down gently, getting your swimmer’s shoulders wet.
- Use squirting, sprinkling, and pouring toys to encourage your child to play in the water.
Tip: Do not expect your fearful child to begin practicing the arm and leg swimming movements as soon as they enter the water. Your kid may not feel comfortable doing so just yet. Give your child time.
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Tips to help a child overcome fear of swimming:
- When teaching swimming, especially to a child with aquaphobia, gaining the child’s trust is crucial. The fearful child should be given constant reassurance, step by step progression, a gentle and positive approach
- Do not wait until your child gets older to teach them to swim. Fear does not necessarily diminish with age. Safe and positive exposure to the water will help diminish the fear
- Parents can and should take an active role in helping their child overcome fear of swimming
- When learning to swim, kids should feel safe, relaxed and happy to learn, not scared or anxious. So before you can expect your child to actually learn to swim, first you have to help them overcome their fear of water
- It’s harder for kids with aquaphobia to overcome their fear and learn to swim in group lessons. The best setting for fearful children is one on one instruction. This way the parent/swim teacher can progress at the child’s pace