So, you registered your sweet little one for learn to swim lessons (good work, mom and dad)!
She’s picked out an adorable unicorn themed bathing suit with a matching swim shirt, and your “Swim mom” t-shirt just arrived from Etsy. You pack up a water bottle, monogrammed beach towel, and your good camera so you can catch the momentous occasion on film. You arrive at the pool, your kiddo is all smiles. Their happy instructor leads them into the pool……and, cue the screaming. Your excited and happy new swim kid is now the terrified and uncontrollably crying swim kid. And, you have no idea what to do.
The first thing you need to hear is — this is normal! Don’t fret mom and dad! We know how nerve-wracking and even embarassing (jeez! Those indoor pools have a loud echo, huh?) it can be for parents in this situation. We have been in this same situation with our own kids. They inherently know that they can sink, and this scares them. We also know that it can be confusing for a parent to know the correct way to deal with a situation such as this one.
At our classes, parents are encouraged to be in the pool, on the side of the pool with your child, or even hidden outside the door…depending on which works best for YOUR child. We want you involved in the best way that benefits your child individually, and will never have you behind a glass wall, so you can always hear what is going on in class.
Here are 9 NJAC tips on what you can do to help a crying new swimmer:
- Make sure your child comes to their swim class rested and with a full stomach! Try not to schedule their lesson at nap time. Hangry and tired kids usually act hangry and tired in the water. Add in the extra sensory aspects of a pool, and attitude and morale can quickly go downhill.
- Give the instuctor 10-15 minutes to try to work with your child. Don’t intervene right away. Remember that your child needs to build trust in this instructor, and if you immediately intervene, they will want to go to you.
- After this point, if your child is still upset, come over and ask the instructor what they think. Offer to sit on the side of the pool with your child. If needed, our teachers may ask you to come in the water at their next lesson to help build their confidence. We want to focus on teaching swim skills, not just working on separation, so if your child needs you in the pool, that is OK with us, no matter how old they are!
- If day 1 is a debacle, take a deep breath, relax, and know that this is normal for MANY KIDS! You are not alone! Try to chat with your instructor after their lesson and ask for any pointers. Email our office and we will help you determine a game plan for next week. It can take weeks (and weeks!) for some children to feel more comfortable in the water, so please be patient!
- Work on skills in your bath tub at home! It’s fun and it will help to get your child used to getting their face wet, if this is a fear of theirs. Ask your instructor for specific tips.
- Do not let your child see YOUR stress, as that will transfer to your child! Try to stay calm whether in the pool with your child or watching from the sidelines. A smile from mom and dad can go a long way in comforting your child.
- Tensions may be high, but do your best not to get upset at your child for being stressed, and scared. These are true, legitimate feelings that they are having!
- After their lesson, talk your child about their feelings. If there was anything positive about the lesson that you can think of, bring that up and praise your child for it!
- To reiterate– when in doubt…ASK FOR HELP! Everyone at North Jersey Aquatics, from your child’s instuctor, to the pool ambassador, to our office staff, is on your team and wants to see your child succeed and learn proper water safety and life saving techniques! We are all always here to help, and offer advice to come up with a plan to help your child.
We are so passionate about helping your child succeed, because learning to swim is a survival skill. It’s not all musical notes and tutus – kids will be nervous as they are learning this life skill, because it’s a bit foreign to them. But even though it might be tough on your child (and you!) at first if you have a fearful new swimmer, know that you are doing best thing for them! The leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1-4, and second leading cause for children ages 5-13 is accidental drowning and formal swimming lessons are proven to reduce drowning by 88%.
NJAC looks forward to the lesson where your fearful new swimmer turns the corner to becoming a confident swim kid who looks forward to our fun end of class jumps! It’ll happen, just give it time…your child deserves it.