For some children, water doesn’t present any problems at all. From the moment it’s safe for them to do so, they’re all for jumping in, taking a plunge, and enjoying the fun and exercise that swimming can offer.
For others, it’s not so simple.
When someone has a phobia, there is a tendency among the general public to think that there must be a reason for it. If your child is showing signs of being afraid of water, this can be particularly puzzling. Having watched their every move since they were born, you know there’s nothing sinister to do with water in their history – so what could the problem be?
Many phobias are just instinct; a sense that something can’t be trusted. Your child might just not like the idea of water at all; there doesn’t need to be a terrible reason for it. With that said, it’s no less distressing to witness your child resolutely wanting to keep their feet on dry land. Swimming is good for kids for reasons of fun and as an exercise activity, so how can you encourage them to dip a toe into the shallow end?
The idea of playing around in something that has the potential to kill you is a pretty scary thought, so when it’s put like that, it’s understandable that some kids are reticent!
The only way to conquer this aspect of the fear is to make water as normal and everyday as possible. There are a variety of ways to do this, depending on your budget and how determined you are to overcome the issue. From simple ideas like always encouraging them to opt for baths over showers, to more elaborate options like researching swimming pool design to see if there’s room for a pool in your garden, the entire purpose should be to make water seem completely routine. If they’re splashing about in the bath or paddling in your garden pool, they will soon shake the idea that large bodies of water are an alien threat.
Flotation aids – such as rubber rings, arm bands and the like – are often seen as only being necessary in the early stages of learning to swim. If your child can swim, then it’s tempting to remove these in the hopes of encouraging them to explore on their own.
The problem with that is that those aids also provide a critical mental component; they’re reassurance. Maybe your child needs to spend a bit longer with a flotation device at their side to feel safe. They will definitely let you know when they’re ready to go without.
Don’t Force It
While there are legitimate reasons to encourage your kids to swim, don’t let it become such a big issue that they feel pressured into doing so. The watchword here is encourage rather than force. Don’t be tempted to just make them figure it out and “get over it”; stick by their side, encouraging them the whole while, until they feel as safe in the water as they do on the land.
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