PPA Parents know learning to swim is an important life skill, but for some children, the thought of being in the water can be terrifying. If your child is afraid of swimming lessons, there are a few things you can do to help them overcome their fear.
1. Determine the reason for their fear and validate that fear.
The first step is to try to understand why your child is afraid of swimming. Is it because they have had a negative experience in the past? Are they afraid of getting water in their eyes or ears? Once you know the reason for their fear, you can start to address it.
The second crucial part of this is validating their fear. Reassure your swimmer it’s okay to feel the way they do; you and their instructor are there to help them. Quickly relay these fears to their instructor and invite their feedback along with providing some tips about supporting your kiddo.
2. Make swimming lessons a positive experience.
Start by taking your child to the pool just to play and have fun. Let them splash around, blow bubbles, and explore the water at their own pace. Talk about swimming lessons from a positive perspective, describing what they can expect and that there will be lifeguards and instructors there to keep them safe. Consider reading a book about swimming lessons – we recommend:
Brave in the Water by Stephanie Wildman
Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves by Lauren H. Kerstein
Saturday is Swimming Day by Hyewon Yum
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
3. Be patient and supportive.
It takes time to overcome a fear of swimming, so be patient with your child. Don’t get frustrated if they don’t want to get in the water right away. Just keep encouraging them and letting them know you’re there to support them. Similarly, be okay with their instructor pacing them and respecting their fears while also challenging them to be brave with skills they’re confident your swimmer can do.
Finally, don’t give up! Consistently attend your swimmer’s lessons and use positive language to encourage and reassure them.
4. Set realistic expectations.
Be aware all swimmers learn to swim and gain skills on their own timeline. There’s no definite timeline of when a child should be swimming after attending X months of lessons. Don’t expect your child to learn everything about swimming overnight. Start with small goals, such as getting in the water and staying afloat. Once they’ve mastered those goals, you can start to set goals for more challenging skills. The Pikes Peak Athletics curriculum is a great place to pull skills from for these goals.
5. Practice at home.
In addition to swimming lessons, you can also help your child overcome their fear of swimming by practicing at home. This could involve playing in the bathtub, taking them to the pool, or even just splashing around in the sprinklers. The more your child gets used to being in the water, the less afraid they will be.
Helping your child overcome their fear of swimming can be a challenge, but it is definitely possible. With patience, support, and practice, they will eventually learn to love the water and enjoy swimming safely and comfortably.
Jaecie Montgomery | Program Operations Manager