The summer vacations are here. And if you have a child who hasn’t learnt to swim yet – I am certain you are contemplating enrolling your child in a swimming class.
If you are – your intentions are certainly worthy of applause.
Swimming is a life saving skill, it is fantastic exercise, it strengthens the lungs and gives them more power, it is a fun activity and a great way to get outdoors and make friends.
If you are a lucky parent – you will have a child who loves water; a child who is looking forward to learning how to swim and takes to the water like the proverbial fish. In fifteen days then - you will have a child who is effortlessly swimming lengths of the pool.
But what if you are not that lucky?
What if yours is the one child in a class of twenty who refuses to get into the pool?
What if yours is the one child who is howling before every class?
Should you force your child to swim? Or should you just give up?
The answer to both those questions is NO.
Before you enrol your child for a swimming class – it is very important for you to understand that swimming is NOT about thrashing about with the arms and legs. Your child will learn how to swim when he/she learns how to control and regulate breathing.
A frightened child will find it impossible to learn how to swim because when a child is afraid – the first thing he / she will lose control over is – breath.
A howling child who is forced into water - will have great difficulty learning how to swim.
As a child cries - water will enter the nose and mouth and the child will choke on the water as he / she cries. The sensation of drowning that this causes – will terrify an already frightened child – ensuring a fear of swimming classes.
If you are the parent of a child who is afraid of the water – here are some things you should do –
Respect your child’s fear
Never say – “Oh! There is nothing to be scared of”. A pool full of water that looks inviting and beautiful to you - can look like an ocean to a little child.
Do not rush your child
Being in water is a new sensation that the body needs to get used to. Allow your child to proceed slowly and realize that water is not threatening. There are children who need to first just be splashed with water – then dip their feet in and then slowly over a month – move to putting their heads under water for a few seconds. But given a chance these children eventually – do learn how to swim. Fifteen day deadlines that typical swimming classes set – do not work for children.
Work on building confidence
Never allow your child to be taken to the deep end perforce. And NEVER allow your child to be thrown in at the deep end with the mistaken notion that children learn to swim when they are in deep water. A frightened child will open his/her mouth to gulp in air –and end up gulping water instead. The sensation of drowning that this causes – will terrify your child and destroy his/her confidence. Instead – allow your child as much time as he/she requires in the shallow area of the pool – to gain confidence. Stay away from overzealous arrogant instructors.
Empower your child
Always give your child the choice to proceed to the next step or go back one step as he or she chooses. Never prevent a child from leaving the pool if he/she wants. There are days when children are very tired - days when they find the water too cold or days when they are just not in the mood. Compelling children to undertake a challenge they do not feel they can tackle at that moment - can ruin the confidence they have built so far.
Persist and encourage
As difficult as it may be to believe it – every child wants to learn how to swim. Encouraging your child to persist in his/her effort to learn how to swim – is the one thing that your child needs from you
As you teach your child to swim remember that this is your child’s challenge – do NOT make it yours.
Happy swimming !!