Helping an Anxious Child with Swim Lessons

Whether your child is brand-new to swimming or has been doing it for years, every swimmer is bound to feel anxious about lessons once in awhile. Maybe they haven’t had a lesson for years, or maybe they have a new swim instructor or maybe they are afraid of water…whatever the reason, feeling nervous about swimming is totally normal! In fact, those nerves can help prepare kids for being responsible in/around water, give them motivation to focus and try their best, and allow them to overcome challenges.

Even knowing nerves are common doesn’t make it any easier on a parent whose child is struggling – which is why we put together this list of 5 ideas to help support your anxious child with swimming lessons. We hope these ideas bring some comfort to your child and prepare them for a love of swimming.

  1. Swim for fun. Kids naturally gravitate towards water, so take advantage of their curiosity and let them swim or explore the water in a fun, no-pressure environment. If they’re little, that might mean bubble bath and some new bath toys. Sprinkle water on their heads so they get used to the feeling, or see if they can blow bubbles in the water. If they’re older, let them jump off the side of the pool or dive for rings. Whatever is FUN for your child, give them a chance to do it! SwimWest offers family swim, or you can visit one of the local outdoor pools during the summer. By allowing your child to enjoy the water, you’re giving them building blocks for success during lessons.
  2. Practice. Is there a specific skill that’s challenging for your child and hurting their confidence during lessons? Sometimes swim anxiety (especially in older children) is because they don’t feel like they know what they’re doing. By giving them time to practice skills outside of lessons, they may be able to practice and feel more confident during lessons. You can also try a private lesson with one of our instructors!
  3. Take baby steps. Your child isn’t going to swim the length of the pool overnight. Let them build on their skills slowly and at their own pace. Water play, bubbles, kicks and jumps are great ways to introduce swimming to your child. As they become more comfortable in the water, add in age-appropriate skills like freestyle “scoops” or dolphin kicks. Learning too much at once can be intimidating, so watch your child and move as they feel comfortable.
  4. Meet the instructor and other kids. Some kids are shy or intimidated in a group setting. See if you can meet the instructor and introduce yourself and your child. Make sure the other kids in the class are a good fit for your own child, and not a reason for swim anxiety. If something isn’t “clicking” with the instructor or other classmates, try a different class and see if that’s a more comfortable fit for your child.
  5. Give it time. If you’ve tried the other ideas and your child is still struggling with swim lesson anxiety, give it some time. Sometimes that means trying longer to see if things get better, and sometimes that means taking a break from lessons and trying again a few months later. Whatever works for you and your family is fine! Sometimes time is all a child needs to overcome their swim lesson nerves.

We hope these ideas help prepare you and your child for another school-year of swim lessons!