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Fear of Water, and how to overcome it?

My child is afraid of deep water? My cousin used to be a great swimmer, now he wouldn’t come anywhere near the water. My friend’s father use to take his children and grandchildren to the seaside, but he would only go as deep into the sea as his ankles! My neighbour is a fantastic swimmer but only in a swimming pool, but she never swims in the sea. One would say, it’s absurd! My uncle has a beautiful swimming pool at his country house, but he never swims in it, he is afraid of depths. Believe it or not, but some Olympic medallists were afraid of water.

Fear of water is not connected to your age, profession or whether you are a swimmer or not. I am sure that you have quite a number of examples among your friends and family. Most of them have experienced something that has caused this fear. There are many different types of fears of water, and they are all the most frightening to their respective owners. Somebody might have seen another person drowning, or he/she was drowning him/herself, or very easily ,their parents, or someone from their close family, had a bad experience and they transferred that fear to them. Throughout my long professional experience, I could share with you what really helped me working with children to overcome their acquired or inner fear of water. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. However, the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone in this. Then you need a strong will to try. Of course, in those moments it’s often more important to be a better psychologist than a swimming instructor.

Some of the tricks:

 - It’s very true what the psychologists say about the emotional side of fear and water, and how that is essential in order to overcome the fear. Therefore, it is important to create a very relaxing and enjoyable environment, so that your child feels comfortable both in and outside the water. How do you do that? Bring some of your child’s favourite toys to the swimming pool (those that can float are perfect), if not, then get one of the swimming aids such as worms, boards, swimming tubes, floating vests, etc.… as there are many different floating aids that can help your child feel more comfortable in the water. You can also become a “safety object”, someone they can trust. That’s your step two.

 - Find an experienced instructor, or a trained professional you can trust. Although, the presence of parents, especially with really small children, is essential. Don’t worry, your child will not start jumping into the water right away. It is enough that you sit on the edge of the pool and by talking to the trusted professional you and your child would become more relaxed while moving just your legs and feet.

 - No matter the age, but most children and adults do not like getting their head, ear, or nose wet. To begin with, create a fun and enjoyable situation to make your child wet his/her face – making bubbles in the water is always a good start. In that way, your child will get his/her face wet, or at least a part of it, which is the main goal of this exercise. Remember, it’s important to be fun. You could also try and use a straw to make bubbles in the swimming pool. This would gradually get some water to your child’s face. Or you could use water pistols, kids just love them.

Remember, the most important thing is to be relaxed, patient and full of love and support for your child who is afraid of water. Do not rush him/her, because each child is different and he/she should start liking the water and eventually start swimming at his/her own pace. Start with teaching your child to swim in shallow water, there he/she can have a sense of self-control.

It is a huge step when your child starts feeling comfortable in the water, then you can proceed to teach him/her how to swim. It can take a while, but he/she will start enjoying this newly developed positive attitude towards swimming.

Absolutely, the most important thing is – Never transfer your potential fear of water to your loved ones, because in that way, you would make them feel inapt for life! Give yourself and them a chance.

Similar things can be applied to adults as well. What was effective with kids is also effective with adults, and that is feeling relaxed. Apart from the already listed tips, you could put a stationary bicycle into the shallow end of the pool. It may sound funny but trust me, it works. The person who is afraid of water can sit, relax and ride a bike, and at any moment he/she could step down and touch the bottom of the pool with his/her feet.

Believe me, you can overcome the fear of water, but you have to do it step by step and under a professional supervision!

Some people overcome their fear in just two weeks of intensive time in the water, the others take three months, or a year or even two.

The most important thing is not to give up!


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