Swimming and the fear: From a crying child to a swimmer in four months
A girl in diapers, screaming by the pool. She is screaming as she’s clinging on to her dad by his leg as he’s trying to get into the water with her. Not a beautiful sight at all, neither for the ears or eyes. That is why the lifeguard approached them to see what was going on. She was less than two years old, and she was terrified of water!
Don't take your child's resistance to get into the water as nothing.
The dad of the screaming girl came to "my" pool one day. He wanted his daughter to learn to swim, but he didn’t mention her fear of the water… Luckily, I recognised the man as I had witnessed the situation from the beginning of the story. I said OK. But the condition was to have swimming trainings continuously twice a week until the girl felt fully relaxed near the water. We also agreed that if they skipped one training, the swimming for them would be over. Dad was already worried about how long it would take her to relax in the water, but I explained that it would depend on many things, primarily the child. Dad accepted all the conditions I made.
We were getting to know the water and its surroundings day by day.. sitting near the shallow water. Her mum was with her at first, and then she gradually moved away from the edge of the pool. She didn't even notice it because we were playing by the pool… A month passed and we were still playing there.
Once I got her trust, she gave me her hand and she entered the pool.
She started getting into the water bit after bit… there we continued to play with the rubber toys. Gradually, she started reaching for the toys from the bottom of the pool. Every other week, I brought her new toys to motivate her to stay in the water as long as possible.
Of course, it happened that she did not want to enter the water any further. Did I cancel the class? No. Did she come back the next class, YES. We would sit on the edge of the pool, talking, playing with her dolls, washing their hair, doing their hair, and after some time she would go into the water to swim…
If you want your child to overcome the fear of the water in an easy way, apart from an experienced coach, trusting him and his work is vital, as well as the continuity of attending swim lessons. Don't start with swim lessons and lie to yourself, your child, if you can't bring him or her to the pool at least twice a week in order to get rid of the fear of the water. Only then, with constant work in and around the pool, can you see the results.
It is a magical feeling when you see a child who was shaking at the thought of approaching, let alone entering the water, who just in a few weeks wants to get into the water and swim. So, don't "push" a child into the water if he or she doesn’t want it now. There must be a reason why he or she doesn’t want to get into the water right now. Be patient when it comes to children's fear of water, it can be enhanced even deeper and stay for a lifetime.
Let's go back now to the story of the screaming girl who dreaded the water, but who eventually started swimming and enjoying it.
It was all great, she got rid of the fear of the water. But we were only playing in the shallow part of the pool where she could feel the bottom of the pool with her feet. She didn't want to go into the deep part. What did I do? I knew I had to motivate her somehow to get into the deep water. I brought a water gun to the pool. We sprayed each other and laughed out loud… and then at some point I “accidentally” dropped the water gun in the deep water and the girl jumped into the pool on her own, without even thinking, and reached the gun and me. Yes, she was swimming! Not to have it as an exception, we repeated this game. I dropped the toy "accidentally" again and again, and she did the same thing over and over again. She would swim up to the toy again. She was in the deep water now and there was no fear in her eyes for not being able to touch the bottom of the pool with her feet.
Exactly four months passed from those screams she made in the water at the beginning and the moment when she was swimming with no fear in her eyes. At the age of two, the girl felt relaxed in the water, had fun in the water, dived with no fear, and swam with a smile on her face. We recorded that moment of relaxing and her smile in the water. Mom and dad cried like babies when they saw it, but those were tears of joy.
From the perspective of swimming, and the girl's example of fear of water in this story, to be honest, there was no visible progress at first, but the parents remained determined, they did not give up even when we were just sitting by the pool… With mutual support, understanding, between the parent, child, and coach, the girl got rid of the fear, approached the water, and played while sitting on the ladder, then jumped into the pool and finally dived and started swimming with a smile on her face. It all took some time, but it was worth all the time in the world. Do you know why? Because one more child is now more relaxed in the water, safer, and has a life skill that she will only upgrade as she’s growing up!
There should be no rush when it comes to children and their fear of water. It takes patience. In such situations, parents usually lack patience.
That is why it is better to let an expert deal with overcoming the fear of water in children, but also in adults. It is not enough to be just a swimming coach, psychologist, pedagogue in such situations, experience in working with people who are afraid of water is also crucial.
Does your child have the fear of water?
Are you over it?