Every parent wants their child to be comfortable in the water and to enjoy going swimming with their peers. If are here, it’s probably because your child is afraid of water and prefers to watch from outside rather then going into a swimming pool.
Regardless of what’s causing the fear, it’s important to help your child overcome it as soon as possible, so they can learn to swim and to be safe in and around the water.
Here are the 5 steps on how to help a child overcome fear of swimming:
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 (watch FREE LESSONS here)
Step 4. Children overcome the feeling of “falling” under the water.
Step 5. Kids have the confidence to swim completely on their own.
In a previous article we have already discussed Step 1 and you can review it here. In this article we will discuss Step 2. Keep in mind that not all children experience the same level of fear. Begin with the step appropriate for your child and always progress through steps at your child’s pace.
Step 2: Once in the water, help kids feel comfortable being held by you.
Your fearful child has finally joined you in the water – a new and scary environment for them. Try to put yourself in your child shoes…think about your worst fears…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.
Your child’s worst fear is fear of “falling into the water”. So once your child has joined you in the water, hold them close in whatever position is most comfortable for them. Until your youngster becomes more comfortable, we recommend using one of these two hold positions: the protective hold and the hip hold. In this video we explain each holding position.
Progress through the following activities:
- Sit on the edge of the pool with your child and splash your feet for a few minutes
- When your child is ready, pick them up and lower them into the pool slowly. Hold them in either the hip hold or the protective hold position and walk slowly around the pool
- Bounce up and down gently, getting your swimmer’s shoulders wet
- Use squirting, sprinkling, and pouring toys to encourage your child to play with the water
Advice: Do not expect your fearful child to begin practicing the arm and leg swimming movements as soon as they enter the water. They may not feel comfortable just yet and that is okay. Be patient and give your child time.
Watch how we help a fearful child overcome his fear of water:
More 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 be the best guides 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 children 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