Learning to swim is one of the most important skills your child can learn. According to the CDC, two children under the age of 14 die from drowning every day. Learning to swim helps keep your child safer in and around water.
Swimming can also feel scary or difficult to children, though. As your child learns to swim, you will be his or her most important source of support. Here’s how to encourage your children while they learn to swim.
Make Swimming Positive and Fun
If swim lessons make your child nervous, try to find out what the underlying problem is. Does your child have a fear of sinking? Maybe she doesn’t like the way water feels on her face. Or perhaps he’s afraid he won’t fit in with the other kids. There are lots of reasons children may be reluctant to swim. When you get to the root of the problem, then you can address it.
If your child has a fear of water or can’t tolerate the way water feels, focus on creating positive experiences. Be understanding, and move slowly. Try having your child blow bubbles in the bathtub. If you’re near a natural body of water, have a picnic and just let your child get used to being near the water. When he or she is ready, try wading in and looking for shells or rocks along the edge.
Games are also a great way to increase comfort in the water. For young children, this could mean simply playing with toys in the bathtub. For older children, who are becoming more competent at swimming, try games like Marco Polo or have them grab toys from either the surface or the bottom of the pool, depending on their level.
If your children are uncomfortable starting classes because of a fear of fitting in, remind them that there will be other children around the same age and level in their class. If it’s possible for them to take lessons with a friend, that can also go a long way toward easing their anxiety.
Be A Good Role Model
Our children are always watching us. Be mindful of the attitude you are modeling for your child. Are you fearful of water yourself? You may need to take steps to increase your own comfort around the water so you don’t pass it on to your children.
Always try to model good water safety, but also, show your children that you have fun in and around the water. If children see that you are having fun while swimming, they’re more likely to want to join in. This also applies to siblings.
If you have other children who are comfortable in the water, encourage them to help your reluctant swimmer. Have them play games together in the water or invite friends along. Your child won’t want to sit on the sidelines while the other kids have all the fun.
We always encourage family involvement in lessons. In fact, we require parents to participate in lessons for our youngest children. You’ll be in the water, physically touching, and always within arms reach. Your instructor will teach you skills that you can practice outside of lessons, too.
While our Family Swim is currently suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions, we encourage you to participate when we are able to offer family swim time again. When families make swimming part of their routine, children see it as both a routine part of life and a great way to spend time with the people they love.
Next time your swimmer is feeling discouraged, try some of these tips. And remember, you can always speak to your child’s instructor about any difficulties they are having.