Supporting Your Swimmer Through Tears

As a parent, it’s heartbreaking to see your child in distress, especially during activities meant to be enjoyable and educational, like swimming lessons. When your child screams and cries during swimming lessons, it can be challenging to know how to help them adapt and overcome their fears. Be assured, at Pikes Peak Athletics, our instructors are trained to handle these situations with patience and care. Before diving into what instructors do to help, it’s essential to first recognize that fear of the water is common among children, and their reactions are often a natural response to feeling anxious or overwhelmed. It’s crucial to approach their distress with empathy and understanding. Here we’ll explore what our instructors do to support children who are struggling during lessons and what you can do to help your child feel more comfortable in the water.

What Instructors Do to Help:

Building Trust: Establishing trust is fundamental to helping a child overcome their fears. Our instructors are encouraged to take the time to build rapport with your child, getting to know their individual needs and preferences all while understanding that building trust is an ongoing process. This can be as simple as knowing that your child isn’t ready to go underwater yet. By creating a supportive and nurturing environment, instructors aim to instill confidence and reduce anxiety.

Gradual Exposure: Pikes Peak Athletics instructors understand that pushing a child too hard or too fast can exacerbate their fears. Instead, we use a gradual exposure approach, introducing water activities in small, manageable steps. This might involve starting with simply blowing bubbles or playing with toys that allow the child to become familiar with the water at their own pace.

Positive Reinforcement: Our instructors use positive reinforcement to encourage children and reinforce their progress. Whether it’s a high-five for trying a new skill or words of praise for facing their fears, positive feedback helps boost your child’s confidence and motivation to keep trying.

Individualized Attention: Every child is unique, and our instructors recognize the importance of individualized attention. While they must be sure to meet the needs of all swimmers throughout a class, they will tailor their approach to meet your child’s specific needs, whether that means offering extra reassurance or modifying activities.

Creating a Safe Environment: Safety is paramount in swimming lessons, especially for children who are feeling anxious or fearful. Pikes Peak Athletics instructors ensure that the learning environment is safe and supportive, implementing appropriate safety measures and closely always supervising children while offering ongoing verbal assurance to swimmers.

Empathy and Understanding: Above all, our instructors approach each child with empathy and understanding. We recognize that overcoming fears takes time and patience and are there to support your child every step of the way. By offering a listening ear and a compassionate presence, our instructors help children feel valued and respected.

How Parents Can Help:

While swimming instructors play a crucial role in helping your child adapt during lessons, there are also ways that parents can support their child’s journey:

Encourage Open Communication: Talk to your child about their feelings and experiences in swimming lessons. Encourage them to express themselves openly to both you and their instructor, letting them know that it’s okay to feel scared or anxious and that we’re here to help them.

Reinforce Positive Experiences: Celebrate your child’s achievements, no matter how small. Recognize their efforts and offer praise and encouragement for facing their fears and trying their best.

Practice Outside of Lessons: Spend time in the water outside of formal lessons, whether it’s at a local pool or even blowing bubbles in the bathtub! Gentle exposure to water in a relaxed setting can help your child become more comfortable over time.

Be Patient and Supportive: Above all, be patient and supportive as your child navigates their fears. Avoid putting pressure on them to perform or progress too quickly and offer unconditional love and encouragement along the way.

Don’t Give Up: Life is full of obstacles and setbacks, and learning to persevere in the face of adversity is a crucial life skill. By sticking with swimming lessons despite tears and resistance, you’re teaching your child the value of perseverance and tenacity. They learn that success often requires hard work, determination, and a willingness to push through difficult times. This also teaches them that swimming is important!

Swimming lessons can be a challenging but rewarding experience for children, especially those who are fearful of the water. By working closely with Pikes Peak Athletics instructors and providing ongoing support at home, you can help your child adapt and develop essential water safety skills. Remember, every child’s journey is unique, and progress may take time. With patience, empathy, and teamwork, your child will gradually grow more confident in the water and learn to enjoy swimming lessons to the fullest.

Jaecie Montgomery | Program Operations Manager

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