Swimming lessons have many benefits such as safety, coordination, confidence, developmental advantages, and more. But what if your child is reluctant, nervous, or even scared?
As an instructor, I see the wide spectrum of confidence when it comes to lessons. I have two-year-olds who are fearless and would jump in with or without an instructor there if not watched closely. I have a twelve-year-old who has never swum and can’t stand the thought of swimming on his back. I even have adults who are too afraid to hold their breath for more than ten seconds. Every other day I get the same question; is there anything I can do to help myself or my child feel more comfortable? The simple answer is, yes.
Make connections. One way you can help is by talking about it at home. Glamorize it. Being nervous could come from a number of things. If it’s because of a new instructor, use their name when you mention swimming so that they can make a positive connection between the swimming and the person teaching the lesson. Tell them what you like about the instructor. “I like that Mrs. Elizabeth uses toys during swim lessons. What do you like about Mrs. Elizabeth?”
Mention some of the skills that they do in the class. “Wow! Your back floats look awesome! I bet you could do one for 10 seconds next class!” These are words of encouragement that your instructors will be using too, so hearing it again from their parents would be great!
Playing dress up can help as well. Have them put on their cap and goggles at home. Make it exciting and playful so that when they arrive at swim lessons and are getting dressed, they remember the fun they had at home with their swimming gear. Connections are crucial! I have a student that loves the water, but he always has a hard time in the locker room. Putting on all of the gear before lessons makes him anxious. The second he gets in the water and starts swimming; all of those nerves go away. Some students may just not like the anticipation.
There are really two sides of everything. Not everything that you do at swim lessons should stay at swim lessons. Take the lessons with you, talk about them, reflect with your child, and have fun! As an instructor, I love hearing that my students love swimming lessons so much that they talk about it at home. Truly, being patient with your child is the most important.
Want more comfort tips? Check out part two: Bathtub practice!