It’s very understandable that many children, even adults, are afraid of water. Being in the water can be scary and overwhelming; there are no boundaries and sense of sinking is very frightening. Fear of water can stem from several causes for both adults and children:
- An instinctive fear related to fear of drowning
- Fear of the unknown
- Bad experience that occurred in the past/during childhood
- Fear of water can be transmitted to a child by parents that are themselves afraid of water
- Any experience ingrained by swimming instructors that used inadequate and/or stressful methods of teaching.
It’s important to remember that every child has a different level of fear, whether brief or persistent. If you are looking for ways to help your child feel more comfortable in the water, here are some steps to consider:
Small Steps & Positive Reinforcement
Overcoming the fear or water is often a gradual process. For parents, that means being encouraging and positive even at the small steps. Introducing your child’s feet into the water and asking him or her to dip a little bit further is a example of small, simple step. When your child does dip further, be sure to respond with positive reinforcement. This will help your child connect positive feelings with swimming. It’s very important that parents do not force a child to go into the pool or shame a child for being scared; this can further exaggerate a child’s fear. Instead, acknowledge the fear and respond with patience and positivity.
Focus More on Fun
A focus on fun is a critical component to showing a scared and cautious child that swimming can be fun. Children sometimes become more comfortable in large bodies of water only after they are convinced that water is safe and fun in smaller situations. Take advantage of bath time to introduce a child to swimming activities such as kicking and light paddling. Playing games, singing songs, bringing in their favorite plastic toys, reading books about all of water’s fun possibilities can associate water with fun times.
Call in the Swim Pros
Unfortunately, the best intentions can sometimes validate a children’s existing fear of water or play a role in creating one. Children have a significantly better chance of overcoming fear of water with a professional instructor who understands the complexity and sensitivity involved. For parents who are introducing their child to the water or overcoming any reservations that a child may have regarding the water, I high recommend starting swimming lessons as early as possible. Infant Aquatics ℠ is a swim survival program that teaches children and infants as young as six months old basic swimming skills that they can use to save their life in the event of an accidental plunge in the pool. While learning the basics in a one-on-one environment with an instructor, students gradually become more confident and comfortable in the water.
If you have any questions about the fear of water or the Infant Aquatics ℠ program, please don’t hesitate to contact me.