From the moment babies are born they possess the best quality there is: they have no fear of the unknown. But as they grow up, they might develop fears either by mimicking a parent or by coming in contact with something that triggers an unpleasant, scary feeling.
For many, their first contact with water is a make-or-break situation – here is where the fear of swimming can come in. Maybe they see someone screaming because they got pushed in the pool, maybe their mother doesn’t go in the water because she can’t swim, maybe the child accidentally slips into the pool and there is a strong chance they will develop water aversion and never learn how to swim.
Assuming we are talking about a young child, who has yet to have any contact with water, everything should start slow.
Although you want to teach your child to swim, either because you can’t or because you can and don’t want him to feel left out or risk drowning, you should remember:
Maybe you are at the pool with your 3 or 5 year old for the first time and you cannot get them in the water. Maybe they say it seems too big to them, too cold. Or maybe they get in the water but they are not doing what you would expect. Don’t let your frustration get the better of you. Your child will know when they are ready and all you need to do is be there for them and be their personal cheerleader. Even if they might not like swimming, they will always remember the good time you had together.
At every stage of the learning process remind your child that there are basic rules that need to be followed, for example:
You should always make sure that the water and the pool’s surroundings are safe for your child, and that they have an easy exit of which they are aware. Try to go to reputable pools with strict hygiene codes and pools whose owners you know take safety seriously. This doesn’t mean that they have to have top-notch equipment, like the best pressure side pool cleaner, or the best pool surface alarm, but that they keep things clean and safe.
You can also take a CPR class to make sure you know what to do in case of an emergency. If you can’t swim, ask someone who can swim to be there with you and your child or, if possible, have a lifeguard near.
If your child senses that you are skittish around water, or feels anger and frustration coming from you, they will be reluctant to learning or wanting to be around water, either just when you are around or forever.
Try to keep any negative reactions to a minimum and instead say encouraging words to your child. If it happens so that they just don’t want to do with water no matter what, just accept it and move on. Tell them you are not disappointed and that you can find another fun activity to enjoy together.
And getting to a point where you can be entirely free of worry is impossible for every parent.
Whether you end up with a swimmer or a sunbather give yourself credit for teaching your child the basics they need in order to have a fun, and also a safe time at the pool, beach, lake, or wherever life may take them.