Raising kids is not only one of the most fulfilling human tasks but also a full-time job. Only this time, the implications are much more significant than any other task. We're talking about the healthy development of your most loved ones and the role that parents play is crucial. One quite common issue for kids is the fear of swimming. This is the first and most important tip for parents who find out such a fear: Don't feel frustrated and helpless. There are many ways to deal with it.
Why kids fear swimming
First things first: In the case of kids who fear water, parents shall not give up and neglect providing them with essential swimming skills. This is something I keep repeating because I consider it to be a primary priority. Living in a country that is surrounded by the sea is a factor that requires action. All inhabitants must know how to swim so that no more drowning tragedies would occur. The youngest they learn, the better.
So, you find out that your kid does not want to get into the water. At this point, it's very important that neither you judge it nor you push it to enter a swimming pool. There are many different reasons why kids fear swimming. Maybe they had a bad experience near a pool or fear the new experience of coming in touch with water or, even, had been frightened after watching a movie with sharks. In any case, parents shall talk with their kids without judging them, so they can trace their root of fear. Kids may find it difficult to find the right words to express their feelings, but chances are that you could understand their reasons for concern. The first step should be making your kids feel that they can talk freely, without the fear of judgement or belittling.
How to help your children overcome their fear of water
Once parents find out why their children fear water, they should show them that they stand next to them. Under no circumstances should they be critical or strict. There are many ways you can help overcome their fear. One good idea could be using the bath tube as a simulation process. Filling it with water and letting them feel it, while you are presently encouraging them throughout the process could be an effective starting point. Letting them float in water and, mostly, feeling that you are always near them for assistance, could provide them with a much needed psychological boost. At later sessions, you could encourage them to make bubbles in the water and ultimately guide them through keeping their breath for a short time underwater. Additionally, you can play games in the water either by putting floating toys in the bathtub or by letting toys sink and motivating your kids to catch them. The point is to convey a positive connotation regarding water. After this “first stage”, you can get them in a swimming pool or a beach and get them to touch the water. This way, they could understand that it can't harm them. Again, at later stages and after you feel that there is a level of familiarisation, you could approach a beach when the waves are higher, for managing a greater overcoming of fear.
The main kinds of water fears
Though the fear of swimming can have several possible reasons, experts identify three main kinds:
- Fear of drowning
Hydrophobia is named from the combination of the two Greek words “hythor” (meaning water) and “phobos” (meaning fear). People suffering from hydrophobia are becoming extremely anxious when they come close to any source of water. It does not have to be a swimming pool or the sea, even a bathtub filled with water can cause a great deal of nervousness to hydrophobic individuals. What are the main reasons that cause hydrophobia? Notoriously enough rabies, a viral disease that causes inflammation of the human brain, can lead to hydrophobia. This is a severe case that is caused by anti-rabies vaccination that people need to take in the case of dogs or bats bite. People suffering from that disease have great difficulty swallowing to the point that they have intense spams even when thinking of swallowing water, leading to the emergence of hydrophobic feelings.
Aquaphobia (coming from the Latin word “aqua” which again means water) is due to purely psychological reasons and is classified as a mental disorder. According to psychologists, genetic and experiential factors combine before the manifestation of aquaphobia. Aquaphobic people may experience feelings of extreme anxiousness or have panic attacks when they see water ahead of them.
Finally, fear of drowning can result in a fear of swimming. We need to make a necessary distinction between the two terms: Fear of swimming can be overcome by taking the right swim lessons and starting to feel more comfortable in the water. Fear of drowning, and subsequently fear of water, are not eliminated just by taking conventional swimming courses. Fear of water and fear of drowning are deeper psychological issues and people who find out that they suffer from them should seek the assistance of a psychologist.
Swimming lessons can diminish fear of swimming
Now that we have gained a deeper insight into the many possible psychological issues that have to do with water, we can focus on the fear of swimming. In such cases, parents should consider starting swimming lessons for their kids. We discussed earlier the importance of acquiring essential swimming skills. When kids become more familiar with water, it's time to take the most crucial step. Of course, swim instructors follow different patterns, depending on the age of the kid. Although there's not a “magic” formula that applies to all, as each kid is unique and has different personality traits, experience shows that it's more effective to solve such issues from a young age. Kids can start taking swimming lessons from the age of six months, thus parents shall watch their children closely from that age and start monitoring their reaction to water.
It's generally accepted that the soonest psychological implications are traced, the better they are dealt with. When a fear continues to grow without communicating it to others, it may become a permanent state of mind. It's rare for children to speak about all their fears to their parents either because they don't identify them as problems or because they don't feel comfortable talking about them. This is where the start of swimming lessons can boost the child's psychology and cope with the problem. Talk with your kids and then talk with the swim instructor you choose about their fear of swimming and all the steps you have taken to deal with it. With the right guidance and support, children may love swimming at the end.
The importance of helping kids managing their fears
Apart from the practical benefits, as learning how to swim assures safety in the water, helping your kids to overcome their fear of swimming can have wider implications. Indeed, parents need to start teaching their kids how to overcome their fears and doubts in general. Think about it for a second: Problems are part of our lives, during all of its stages. Kids may fear that they will not be accepted by other kids or that their school marks will be low, adolescents can be highly insecure as their bodies change rapidly and adults have to survive in an increasingly competitive world. Within such a context, the real problem is not that fear of any kind emerges, but how you deal with it. Fear of swimming is no different. Quite frankly, maybe it's one of the less worrying fears, as it's not an unsolvable problem to get to grips with. Therefore, parents helping their kids to overcome their fear of swimming could be a lesson for life. Not just because their kids will learn how to swim, but most importantly because their kids would learn not to fear their fears and how to self-regulate and healthily deal with their emotions. This could be the most priceless lesson for kids and the greatest contribution of parents to their development.