5 Tips for Parents: Overcoming Your Child's Pool Anxiety
By: acac Swim Instructor, Callie Gisriel
Swim lessons at acac are designed to teach children the fundamentals of swimming in a safe, comfortable and fun environment. But what happens when you’re the parent of a child who has anxiety about getting in the water? Pool anxiety is something we see often at acac, and we encourage you to bring them in and work with one of our certified professionals. There are also a few things you can do as a parent to help ease their fears! We’re sharing our best tips for parents of nervous swimmers below.
1. Don’t push the limit.
Let kids ease in to swimming gradually. The goal is to make them enjoy the water – not be afraid of it! Aim to strike a balance between challenging their comfort zones, without pushing the boundaries. For instance, if you have a child who is hesitant to go underwater, don’t jump straight to dunking them in the pool. Let your child set the pace, and listen to their reactions.
2. Celebrate the little milestones.
Make it a big deal when a child overcomes a fear they had. This can be anything from finally putting their feet in or blowing bubbles, to putting their face in and going under water. Show your excitement when they finally hit these little milestones in the water, and even consider celebrating with external rewards.
3. Make it fun!
Use toys, sing songs, and anything that will help make the water seem more fun, or that will distract them from nervous feelings they may have. For younger children, using toys that float and making them kick to it (either with or without someone holding them). For children that need help going under, get some toys that sink and have them reach for them. Gradually throw the toys deeper as they become more comfortable.
4. 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 weird. Have them practice laying on their back when they are in the tub to help get used to this new feeling for them.
5. Don’t rely on floaties.
Flotation devices tend to give children a false sense of security. It may be harder to get the child swimming by themselves after they are used to relying on flotation devices. Also, younger children may not realize the difference between swimming with a floatation device and swimming without one, presenting a potentially dangerous circumstance. Imagine a parent turns their back for a second, and the child jumps in the pool, not realizing they do not have a floatie on! The best thing you can do to ease your child into swimming is get in the water with them and hold them. Keep them close, and keep them comfortable.
If you think your child could benefit from lessons with a certified professional, we encourage you to reach out to your local acac club for information on starting swim lessons.