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Children’s fear of waves: I don’t want to get into the sea

My kid loves water, he loves swimming in the pool, and doesn’t mind splashing in the

shallows, or if someone pours water on his head. However, when we go to the seaside and when the waves start rumbling, my kid just doesn’t want to get into the water. What is the problem? There is no problem. That's just a new situation you should overcome together with your child over time, no matter if the child is 6 months or 6 years old.  

It happens that children enjoy the waves and the sea one summer, while the next summer they don’t even want to dip their toe in the water, because that’s simply the way they feel at the moment. But don’t worry, that will change over time.  

I’ve gone through the I-don’t-want-to-get-into-the-sea phase with my children as well, even though they’ve been in the water since they were four months old. These are some of the situations with the waves and the sea we have successfully gone through with the help of some tricks:

  • I can also do it: Despite having been in the pool since she was a baby and despite loving the water, when she was at the beach for the first time, and when her legs got splashed by a wave, my Little Fish froze. She didn’t like the sound of the waves and the wave splashing her feet. It’s her nature to remain adamant and she didn’t want to get into the water, despite all the tricks I used. But, when her elder brother started running in the shallows and playing with the waves, she just went after him. Without even noticing that she was in the water. Children like to show others that they can also do the things others can do, to imitate, and if they see others doing it with ease, they would want to do it themselves. That’s why you should try to overcome the fear of the waves, the first experience with the sea, by playing with other children of similar age, the children they know and trust. We successfully overcame the fear of the waves, so that we could show our big brother that we can also do it.

  • Everything’s a game: There were cases when my Little Shark, being only nine months old, still as a single child, enjoyed the waves in the shallows, but the next day he wouldn’t want to get into the water. I started playing the “don’t do it” game. I got into the shallows with a cap on my head and told him “don’t you dare getting my cap, no way”. Of course, it was enough to tell him “don’t”, as to any other child, to get the reaction I actually wanted. I didn’t have to say it twice, he came crawling over the sand on his own to get the cap, without even noticing that he was already in the water. Of course, every child is a different case. Try to entertain them. Make a relaxing atmosphere at the beach. Throw pebbles, and shells at the waves. Pretend you need their help, so that the child can give you his/her hand and help you out, make him/her step into the sea. Try to wash the sand off your toys in the shallows together. Or just fill in and empty the beach buckets, plastic bottles near the water, wash your inflatable boat or a mattress.

  • Being relaxed: I met a family at the beach whose son was three, a year older than mine. The two of them got on quite well, playing in the sand. They were laughing, running after one another. Once they finished playing, I took them to the sea to wash the sand off. As I usually do with my kids, I played with his new friend in the waves in the shallows. We even went a bit further, deeper, and they were holding at my back, giggling as the waves were splashing them. His mum and dad were watching us from the beach with approval. When we got back to the beach, his parents told me: “He never wanted to get into the water deeper than his knees before, especially not with a stranger and when there were waves”. I’m not telling you this to brag, but to illustrate the situation in which a complete stranger, without even knowing that “the problem” existed, made a fully relaxed atmosphere, a different setting next to the water, when the child who was afraid of the water, in the end actually got into the water. Children can feel it when you are relaxed, and also when you want to make them do the things they may not feel safe doing at the moment. Yes, there were waves, and still we had fun.

If none of the tricks to make your child get into the sea work,, with or without the waves, don’t despair. Once he/she get relaxed enough, and he/she is not “forced” to do things he/she may not feel like doing at the moment, you will be surprised when he/she runs into the waves.

Most importantly, no matter if we’re talking about a baby who is only six months old, or a child who is one or older, don’t “push” them into the sea, the waves, if they start crying before even getting into the water. Wait for them to adjust their eyes to the new water space, their ears to the new sounds..The easiest way is just to throw them into the sea while they’re screaming, but doing so we will just make the thing worse.

As in every stage of growing up, this I-don’t-want-to-get-into-the-sea stage will pass. The next one is the I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-the-water stage or the just-to-take-one-more-dip stage. Patience and playing have been good alleys in overcoming the fear of waves and the vast water space, the sea.


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