How can you teach your kids not to be afraid of the water?

The pool should be a place of fun, not fear.
The pool should be a place of fun, not fear.
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Pool life is a huge part of the summertime experience, so it's a big bummer if you don't know how to swim. Kids aren't inherently afraid of water -- their experiences and the attitudes around them inform their opinions. Here are some tips for teaching your children not to be afraid of getting in the water.

The Basics

Parents are the main role models for young children, so you set the example. If you've had a bad experience that gives you any hesitation about getting in the water, your child is probably going to pick up on it. You may want to consider taking lessons and working through your water issues before trying to get your kids in the water -- they need to see that swimming is fun. A great way to demonstrate fun is to spend a little time with them poolside while other kids are swimming before encouraging them to get in the water. If they see other kids enjoying themselves, this will create a pleasant memory of the experience. Another thing that will be helpful is to find a warm pool for their introduction into the water. The sudden shock of a chilly pool may send them running to the nearest lounge chair.


Swimming Lessons

You can start lessons with your child as early as six months. Since your child won't be developmentally ready for actual swimming until t three or four years of age, these diaper classes are more of a parent-child bonding session. And they introduce your baby to water, which will help him or her feel more at ease when it's time for actual lessons. How do you know if they're ready? If your young child likes being in the bathtub, he or she may be ready to take a dip. The key to success with lessons is to start early and take them often. Kids become stronger swimmers with more practice, so if there's a way to get them in the water everyday, you should try to do it. And be sure to schedule some fun time at the pool around their lessons. All work and no play won't make the pool seem like a fun place to go. Don't be concerned if your child is getting a later start. There are plenty of programs for beginning swimmers of all ages, and the ability to swim will benefit them for a lifetime.

The Don'ts

Don't leave your child unattended in the water until he or she is a capable swimmer. Especially with young children, you should always be within arm's reach. What starts out as fun can quickly lead to a dangerous situation if kids find themselves in water over their head and panic. You also should never toss your child in the water and expect them to swim. This is a terribly traumatic experience for someone with no aquatic skills and is more likely to create a life-long fear of water than a strong swimmer. And don't let them watch "Jaws." In an active imagination, sharks can turn up in any body of water.


Lots More Information

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  • Brown, Skila. "Stressfree Swimming: How to Teach The Basics.", 2010.
  • Treadway, Greg. "How to have a successful swimming lessons experience." Swimmingcoach,org, 2010.
  • "When can my baby take swimming lessons?", 2010.