Don’t Panic! – Overcoming Water Wobbles and Water Anxiety
So… you have taken your little one swimming since birth, enjoyed lots of smiles and made some great progress in your lessons then BOOM! All of a sudden your little swimmer has become clingy, crying in their lessons and is even worse at bath times. Claire Harrison from swimming rocks shares her top tips on how to overcome water anxiety in children.
Please don’t be disheartened by this. It’s very common and normally occurs around the time of certain milestones or developmental stages. Recent research has shown that when infants enter these new developmental phases, they tend to be unsettled and show regressive behaviours. Their patterns change, they may sleep less or not want to eat and their behaviours change too.
As a Mummy myself, I was often left frustrated that a good routine had just been established only for it to change suddenly and for no apparent reason. This was most often followed by a new milestone, for example rolling over, walking or a growth spurt. You will probably find that this is mirrored in the swimming pool too.
And whilst we know how frustrating and upsetting this can be, you should not worry about what others may think. It’s likely that most parents will also experience this phase in their children’s’ swimming and any good instructor will offer guidance and encouragement throughout your lessons and beyond.
Water anxiety with older children
Such anxiety is not only limited to babies and toddlers, but with children can be much harder to overcome.
Whilst some children take to their swimming lessons super easily, for others, it can be really daunting and the new ‘unknown’ environment can seem very scary.
Sometimes we find that there has been something prior to them starting lessons that has made them fearful. It may be that they have started lessons later in their childhood or their fear may have been passed on from a parent or carer who themselves have water anxiety.
British Olympian Adam Peaty feared the water after his older brothers Richard and Jamie instilled in him a fear of sharks coming through the bath plug when he was a young boy. Resulting in a very loud refusal to go near water, distressing for his mother, Caroline, until eventually a friend took him to a pool and he took to the water. Now just look at his amazing achievements!
In all cases, we need to recognise this fear and work with it. A good swimming instructor has to be able to connect with a child and gain their trust and confidence. Simply sitting on the poolside for a few lessons, talking, playing with toys and dipping a toe in the water may be all that is necessary in the first lessons. You may see them sitting in a shallow area, blowing bubbles, pretending to wash hair or feeling their way around their new environment.
However, with practice and encouragement, they will make impressive progress and may even gain a lifetimes enjoyment of swimming at the same time!
But what can you do to overcome this?
- Remember that infants and young children get their cues from you, so relax and smile and they will follow your lead.
- Don’t be discouraged from taking your little one to their lessons. Here at Swimming Rocks, we live by the 3 P’s…. Praise…. Persistence and Perseverance so keep these up and you will see the benefits.
- Talk to your Instructor, they will give you extra support in the lessons if you feel you need it.
- Cuddles…cuddles and more cuddles. It will provide them the reassurance they need to know that they are safe and you are right beside them.
- Distraction techniques, where we use toys to encourage an activity is often very useful during this period of change. Bring a familiar toy from home that can also be used in their lesson.
- Go at their pace, a good swim instructor will recognise this phase or anxiety and will help you move on from it without being pushy or fierce.
- Make bath time fun. We have a treasure chest of ideas, songs and interactive water play that can help swimming become enjoyable again. Ask for our booklet for more info.
- Take your little ones swimming on your own. Use the same cues, songs and toys that are used in your lessons.
We hope that you have found this guide useful. For more helpful guidance on how to get the most out of your swimming lessons you can email us [email protected] but remember to just keep swimming!
Swimming Rocks offer lessons across 7 venues every day of the week during term time along with school holiday crash courses.