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  • Abigail Stalnaker

No Stressin' at the Swim Lesson

How can I help my child overcome the fear of swimming?

What can I do to help my child have less anxiety at the pool?

As parents, we never want to force our children into stressful situations. Because learning how to swim is such an important life skill, we want to approach it with the least amount of stress possible -- for both kids AND parents. The questions above are commonly asked by parents when introducing children to swim lessons. Here are some ideas that can help in the early stages:

Don't push the limit. Let your child become comfortable in the water and ease into learning new skills. The goal is to make them enjoy the water -- not be afraid of it or feel like a daunting task they will never complete. Listen to their reactions and ask your instructor for specific tips.

Celebrate the little milestones. Milestones can be anything from putting their feet in the water to blowing bubbles. Any fear that they overcome is a big deal. Showing your excitement for them will help encourage them to move forward and try new things in the water. External rewards are also something to consider when praising your child for their hard work. Perhaps a new pair of goggles or a new swimsuit when they complete a session.

Make it fun! Songs, games, toys...anything that makes the water more fun can motivate your child to engage in water play and distract them from the anxiety they have about swimming. Desert Swim School implements LOTS of fun ideas to teach water safety skills. For younger children, using toys that float and having them kick to it (either with or without someone holding them) is a great example. For children that need help going under, using toys that sink and reaching for them or "talking to fish under the water" are both fun activities.

Practice in the bathtub. If your child is afraid of pools, practice those little milestones in the bathtub where they are more comfortable. You can work on blowing bubbles, getting their face wet, kicking their legs and feet. Many children also find the sensation of water in their ears uncomfortable. Have them practice laying on their back when they are in the tub to help get used to this new feeling.

Purchase some swimming-themed books. Books about first timers at the pool to amazing water playgrounds can reinforce positive thoughts about being around water. There are tons of books with this theme, and the more variety you have, the more your child can learn. Click HERE to see the "Top Ten Books About Swimming" to get you started.

Be Positive. Be encouraging and positive at your child's swim lesson. Being on time, prepared with swim suit on and towel nearby, and goggles (if applicable).

If you are in the Parent/Tot class, saying "the water is cold" or not enjoying the lesson yourself can bring a negative note to your toddler. Understanding safety and encouraging the pool rules everywhere is important, too. Special note: showing your own concerns/fears about deep water is not helpful. We find several children who can swim, but their fear of the deep water deters their swimming ability. This often comes from a parent's fears or angst about "the deep end". "Never go near water"... any size, any depth, without a parent or adult, should be the rule.

Overcoming any fear can be difficult. Practice, patience and perseverance is key. Olympic gold medalist Adam Peaty was terrified of water as a young boy, but he worked to achieve his goal and became one of the worlds greatest swimmers. If your child is afraid of the water, remember that you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you and your child. Desert Swim School takes pride in working with children at a steady pace with trained professionals. Placing your child in a class that is appropriate for their skill level is important to their success. Know your child's boundaries and provide opportunities for them to learn inside and outside of the pool. Call owner and expert Janice Jaicks to talk more about this important topic! Office: 480-461-3888

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