Taking the Plunge: Helping Your Child Overcome the Fear of Water
Ways to Conquer the Fear
You can do a lot to help your child overcome his fear of water and swimming. Understand his specific fear and provide frequent, positive exposure to all kinds of water. Let your child take chances at his own pace and he will experience success.
- Name the specific fear. Ask your child exactly what he fears. Is he afraid of going under water or getting water in his eyes?
- Never minimize your child’s fear. Your child’s fear is very real to him, and it is very important that he feels that it is respected.
- Don’t cater to the fear. You can acknowledge the feeling without allowing your child to hold on to it or manipulate others with it.
- Don’t force the issue. Never make your child confront her fear of swimming. If your child appears stressed about your help or advice, take a break and try again another day.
- Don’t have any set expectations. Spend time around water with no plans of going in. Sit by the water’s edge, play in the sand, or stick your feet in the pool. Your child can be enticed into the water without coaxing.
- Choose an age-appropriate swimming program. Discuss your child’s fear or concerns with the instructor. Observe the lessons to be certain that your child’s fear is being respected.
- Read stories and watch movies. Behavior can be shaped through conversation about another child’s struggles with similar issues.
- Do experiments with water. Let your child enjoy water without the expectation of going swimming.
- Provide lots of positive feedback. Be specific about your praise. Instead of saying, “You are doing really well!” say, “I really like the way you kick your feet!”
- See yourself as your child’s coach. Read your child’s signs of comfort and adjust what you are doing.
- Finally, be a good role model and enjoy the water yourself!
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