Hello parents ー let’s jump right in and tread through some fears and hesitations we might have about our children in the water. As an instructor who loves teaching parent/child classes, I work closely with new parents who generally bring along some anxiety to their first few lessons. I want to take the time to acknowledge some of those anxieties and talk about how to address them in a way that empowers new swimmers.
First, let’s talk about the one thing that creates fear or hesitation in the pool ー going underwater.
On a day where I know I’ll be introducing underwater work to a class of young children and their parents, I always start by asking a simple question ー “who feels uncomfortable putting their swimmer underwater?” And I’ll typically get one to three parents who raise their hand.
Going underwater is one of the most important skills a child needs to learn to become water safe. At the end of the day, if your child falls into any body of water, they ARE going to go under so the best thing we can do as parents and instructors is to encourage them to practice in a safe environment that we create for them during lessons.
How can we ensure that our swimmers are remaining safe when performing underwater drills?
The key, especially for children under two years old, is to use the same verbal cues every time we go underwater. By doing so, we allow our kids to associate the language we use with the action that we’re looking for. For example, if I’m working with a 10 month old and have repeatedly said “1, 2, 3, UNDER,” before gently blowing onto their face and submerging their head, eventually, that infant will anticipate the blow onto their face, hold their breath and be ready to go under. You’ll begin to recognize these signs as your child closes their eyes and shuts their mouth as you begin counting.
Now, here’s where parents tend to show the most anxiety around their children in the water:
At times, we may put a swimmer underwater using the right verbal cues but they come up coughing anyway. I put coughing in italics because I’ve experienced many parents suddenly erupt with fear and shout for help as their child coughs and cries. These parents were under the impression that their child was choking. Check out this post about the realities of choking while at swimming lessons.
Throughout the process of teaching our children to become water safe, they ARE going to swallow water every once in awhile. This is completely fine! We have all swallowed pool water here and there throughout our lives and I can promise you that your swimmer’s health will not be affected by it. If this happens and they come up with a cry or look of concern, nonchalantly let them know that they’re safe. Making a big deal out of it will only create fear for the next time they go under.
Now that we’ve acknowledged what makes us nervous as new parents, let’s talk about what we can do to be brave and empower our swimmers to become water safe and have fun.
If at some point you’re nervous to perform a drill, the last thing you want to do is express that to your swimmer. If you’re concerned, they’re going to be concerned. In a class where parents and children are learning together, you’re a team that feeds off of each other. Regardless of any resiliency you may get from your swimmer, I encourage you to exaggerate your enthusiasm and congratulate them on a job well done after each exercise. As you progress, the both of you will feel a lot more comfortable and you’ll know you’ve done your job as their parent when they’re having fun while swimming independently.
To all my new parents out there, take a deep breath. We’re in this together. 🙂
Leave a comment below, letting me know what other reservations you may have about swimming lessons with your newborn. I promise you I have an answer to calm your nerves.