Conquering Fear of the Water: Four Steps for Easing a Scared Child Into the Pool

kid-swimmingMy son loved the water from the second we dipped him in as a baby. When he started swim lessons at 3, he took to it right away. So, I was excited to get my daughter in the water. But she was much different. She loved bath time but cried when we brought her into the pool. We decided to wait until she was older. When it came time to take swim lessons, she begged to not have to go. There was just something about all that water that frightened her.

I didn’t want to give up; after all, swimming is a lifesaving skill. In fact, as this comprehensive information on swimming safety notes, being able to swim and understanding pool safety is a primary way to stay safe around the water. That said, I didn’t want to force her to do something she hated.

I’m happy to say that we were able to help my daughter work through her fear of the water. But I certainly learned a lot along the way. As temperatures get warmer, many families will start heading to the pool. For parents with children who are scared of the water, here are few steps that you can take to help them enjoy pool time this summer.

Step One. Discuss their fears.

When a child is reluctant to get in the water, it might be tempting to point out to them that all of the other kids are having a blast. Unfortunately, doing so can make the frightened child feel even more insecure. Instead, sit down with them and have a discussion about their fear. Helping them talk through it is the first step to alleviating those feelings. For more information on how to approach getting to the bottom of your child’s fear, KidsHealth.org provides this comprehensive overview article, “Anxieties, Fears, and Phobias.”

Step Two. Start small.

Not every child wants to jump right in. Some want to wade in or gradually “sink” in—carefully sitting on each step of the shallow end’s entry point. And that’s ok. Find ways to help your child ease into the water. Start by sitting with them on the side with your legs in the water. Then, move to the pool steps. As they ease in, they’ll begin to see that being in the water is actually quite enjoyable!

Step Three.

Move around the shallow end. Once you’ve gotten them over their initial fear, introduce some activities that will get them moving around the pool.

This is an important step because this is when you can start introducing the child into motions they’ll use to learn to swim. Do what you can to make it fun. The University of Washington offers this group of exercises for people with arthritis, but I find that they’re also great for kids who are getting comfortable with being in the water.

Step Four.

Always be encouraging. Throughout this process, a kind word will go a long way. Cheer just as loudly for the child who finally ducks their head under the water as you do for the one who takes a big jump off the diving board. When I was helping my daughter through her fear of the water, I found Care.com’s article, “7 Ways to Boost Kids’ Confidence” to be really helpful.

Once your child is more comfortable in the water, they’ll be able to learn to swim and tackle more advanced activities, such as diving into the deep end. The key is not to rush them. Go through each of these steps at a pace that is comfortable for them and don’t forget to impart lessons in pool safety along the

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Patricia Sarmiento is a health and fitness blogger, who loves sharing what she’s learned about living a happy, healthy lifestyle and other health- related topics. She is a former high school and college athlete and continues to make fitness a focus in her everyday life. She lives with her husband, son, daughter, and the family dog in Maryland.

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