Many parents are eager to get their kids into the water, opening up a world of possibilities for family fun, fresh air, and healthy physical activity. But the little ones aren’t always quite as eager.
It’s not at all uncommon for children to be afraid of getting into a pool. We may see the water as something beautiful and refreshing, but to a young, uninitiated kid, there can be a real fear of the unknown at play. Plus, the feeling of being in the water can create a serious sense of unease.
Professional swim lessons are the best way to prepare children for the water and to help ensure their safety in and around it. Everything starts with knowing when your child is ready for swim lessons. And of course it’s important to choose the right swim lessons, too.
If your child is truly terrified of getting in the pool, it may very well mean that he or she simply isn’t ready yet. It’s important to respect that. But some kids do eventually need some extra support and gentle prodding to take the plunge.
So, here are some ways to help your child overcome a fear of the water if it’s persisting too long.
Tips for Helping Kids Who Are Afraid of the Water
- Speak positively and reassuringly about being in the water
- Take your child’s fear seriously and don’t dramatize it or draw attention to it
- Never force your child into the water
- Express confidence in your child within earshot, as opposed to doing things like telling other people that he or she is scared of the water
- Don’t get angry at, scold, punish, tease, or otherwise be negative to your child about his or her fear of the water; it’s perfectly natural and normal, and this behavior only reinforces negativity associated with the water
- Praise your child whenever he or she makes an effort—even if it doesn’t really go anywhere—or makes some progress
- Hang out near the water with your child without going in, then start with some minor contact like touching the surface and just sitting with feet in the water
- Encourage some splashing to demonstrate that the water can be fun
- It’s OK to use aids like tubes, flotation devices, kick boards, or similar items at first, but don’t rely on them for too long, because they can create a dependency and a false sense of security, ultimately hindering progress
- Hold your child and take them into the water without submerging them beyond the hips at first
- When you get in the pool with your kid, choose a spot where the water is calm, there aren’t a lot of people around, and there aren’t people playing loudly or wildly
- Very gradually increase exposure to the water and the depth to which you submerge your son or daughter
- Have your child blow bubbles in the pool when you’ve made enough progress, but submerging his or her face further should be reserved for when a kid is no longer afraid of the water
- Never let go of your child in the water or do anything to violate their trust in you during the acclimation phase
- Bring toys into the water to make it more fun
- Consider going to the pool with one or two of your kid’s friends to add some healthy encouragement from peer pressure and wanting to play with them
- Read some age-appropriate stories or watch shows/movies that positively depict being in the water with your child