Swimming and playing in the water is something that most kids enjoy, and many parents look forward to the day that they can introduce their little ones to the joys of the water. But what happens when a child has a real aversion or fear of the water? It can be hard to know how to react or what the right thing to do is. Is it better to push them, or just let them figure it out for themselves? Read on for 10 ways to help your child overcome a fear of the water.
10 Scale It Down
A great tip to help lessen a child's fear of the water is to scale down the size of the body of water they're facing. A lake, swimming pool, or other large body of water may be intimidating to a child who confronts it for the first time and is expected to go in. Help your child by choosing a more manageable area for them, for example, a smaller, more secluded beach area with shallow water. They won't feel as burdened, and you can gently introduce them to the water.
9 Make Bath Time Fun Time
The first experiences a child will have in the water will probably be during bath time, so make sure bath time is an enjoyable experience for them. Bring out the toys and encourage playing and being silly. Some kids hate getting their faces wet, so use a face cloth to cover their eyes while you rinse their hair. If your baby or toddler has a fear of the bath or just seems to really dislike it, another option is to get in with them. Having a parent close by to hold and play with them will be a great comfort.
8 Tone Down the Drama
It's important not to overdramatize the situation. The more upset and frustrated you appear as a parent, the more anxiety your child will feel. Not only will they still be scared of the water, but they will feel like they're letting you down. It may be hard, but try to stay as calm as you can when your child freaks out about going in the water. Also, watch your language. For example, don't let your child overhear you tell another adult that they're completely terrified of the water. Say something like, Emily just needs a bit more time to feel comfortable in the water. This will show your child that you have confidence in them.
7 Try Private Swimming Lessons
When deciding what type of swimming lessons to enrol in for a child who's afraid of the water, parents may want to opt for private lessons. In a public swimming class, children will likely be in a larger group and may not get the extra attention they need to feel comfortable and confident in the water. In private swimming lessons, your child will get one-on-one attention, and the instructor will go at your child's pace, not the pace of the class.
6 Apply Some Gentle Peer Pressure
A way that could coax a child into being a little more adventurous is to expose them to people who love swimming and having fun in the water. This will show them that water can be a comfortable and fun place to be. Maybe your child has some older cousins they look up to who love to swim. Set up a time to get together at the local pool, where your child can observe them having a ball in the water. Maybe it will encourage your little one to get in there, too.
5 Use Water Aids
Water aids can be a useful way to make a child feel comfortable and safe in the water. Try water wings or a lifejacket. You can probably even find something that has your child's favourite TV or movie character on it, or that's your child's favourite colour. Find something that your child loves and get excited about wearing, as this will help encourage them to actually use it. And while it's fine to use water aids while your child is overcoming their fear, it is important to practice swimming without them as well.
4 Be Their Cheerleader
It's up to parents to be their child's biggest cheerleader. If a kid is feeling a lot of anxiety and fear about water, they will naturally be looking to their parents to provide comfort and reassurance. Listen to your child when they express fear, and take it seriously. Provide reassurance that he/she is safe, and that you are there to help. Praise your child with every new milestone, and express confidence that they will succeed.
3 Pinpoint the Fear
Try to pinpoint what exactly is causing the fear when it comes to being in the water. This way, you can come up with ways to cope with that fear and hopefully eliminate it. For example, some kids have a fear of not being able to see the bottom of a lake or other body of water. Try picking a smaller area with shallow water where the child can see the bottom, or they can try using goggles to see what's under the water.
2 Use Resources That Encourage Swimming
Children who are afraid of the water may feel that they are alone in this or that something's wrong with them. Reading books about other kids who are afraid of the water and how they overcame that fear will be encouraging and comforting. Some great books to check out are Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathan London, and Sergio Makes a Splash by Edel Rodriguez.
1 Keep It In Perspective
Having a child who's afraid of the water can be very distressing for parents, and may make them wonder if they'll ever get over it or feel somehow at fault. It's important to remember that all kids are different and some are just naturally more cautious and less trusting of the water. The best thing to do is be patient and encouraging—this phase will pass—and they will eventually become comfortable in the water.