Screaming, crying, rolling on the floor—we’ve seen it all Sometimes it takes all that you have to keep it together when your child is throwing a fit about going to swimming lessons. This behavior is normal.
For some kids, the water can be a big and frightening place. It’s a completely new sensory experience. Top that off with the fact that some kids go through separation anxiety when leaving their parents, and it’s easy to see why the water can sometimes be an overwhelming and foreign world.
It’s important to remember, though, that each child develops water confidence and comfort at his or her own rate. That being said, if your child is still crying, there are some things you can do that will help the process along and finally grant you sweet, excited silence:
- Stay in the observation room – If you’ve ever been to daycare, this part can sometimes to the hardest for parents. The parental instinct to nurture will really kick in here, but you need to teach your child to trust those whom you place him/her with and that you will return.
- Offer continued support and encouragement – Though it can be a process, try and offer continuous encouragement to your child. Explain to him/her the benefits of the learning how to swim and that, after a while, it becomes fun.
- Reinforce desired behaviors – Sometimes all it takes is some good ol’ reinforcement. Your child is a parent-pleaser at heart. Rewarding or encouraging enthusiasm for the pool may inch your child to water independence.
- Practice skills at home in the bathtub or pool – Practice (not necessarily perfect at first) makes comfort! Working at home with your child will undoubtedly begin to instill trust in the water and a confidence in his/her skills.
What should you NOT do?
- Offer bribes for attending lessons – Bribing a child to attend swimming lessons reinforces a negative association with water and the learning process…and that’s something you definitely want to avoid in the long-run.
- Discontinue lessons altogether – Swimming lessons are, first and foremost, about safety. Discontinuing lessons is detrimental for a child’s development. Swimming is an essential skill for water safety and sometimes, survival.
- Allow your anxiety to show through your child – We know the crying can get frustrating, but the last thing your child needs is an added dose of anxiety to compound his/her own.