Swim lessons, if a child starts crying what do you do?

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As a parent there is a long list of things you should do to help your crying child and the swim program that you’re at. We are going to first go through what a parent should do to keep their child from crying or reduce the tear time to a minimum. To prevent children crying at swim lessons:

  • Mentally prepare your child for the swimming experience

When you sign up for swim lessons inform your child that they will be participating in swim lessons. Let them know in clear terms that they will be learn how to go underwater like you do in the bathtub or shower, and will practice moving through the water safely.

  • Sing the songs from swim lessons, and use the same swim specific location language

If you can, get a hold of the swim lesson program’s song sheets or training guide to learn the swim skill language they use at that location. When you are at home, in the car, or playing outside sing those same songs and try to use similar descriptive language to talk about swimming.

  • Visit the pool before swim lessons

Do everything you can to spend some time together at the swimming pool or location that you will have your swim lessons. The best idea is to get in the water with your child and walk them through getting in the water from the side with assistance and blowing bubbles.

  • Constantly offer support and encouragement in the days before the lessons, immediately before the class at the pool, and after a lesson

Parents are the choreographers of their children’s emotional state. You should present a positive welcoming and happy outward demeanor when you are describing swimming and swim lessons. Tell your child how much fun they are going to have at the pool. Remind them about the fun things that you did together at the pool when you went swimming before the lessons.

  • Parents: acknowledge you child’s fear, but don’t suggest WHY they are afraid

We never want to give the child a reason to be scared. Avoid phrases like, “Are you scared because the water is cold?” or “Are you crying because you’re scared of the teacher?” Instead, explain that there is nothing to fear about swimming lessons.

  • Parents: Hand off your child physically to the swim instructor

Parents of crying children, if they are still leaking tears but not outright breaking down in crying fits, and if you feel they are ready to start their lesson, YOU need to physically walk them to the swim instructor and place their hand in the hands of the swim instructor. You need to do this physical and deliberate act. It conveys trust and ownership.

By walking your child to the swim instructor and placing their hand in the swim instructor’s you are physically telling the child some important things:

1) The parent trusts the swim instructor.

2) The swim instructor is an authority the parent believes in.

3) The parent is passing authority over the child to the swim instructor and they are to be listened to.

Parents! DO NOT force the swim instructor to chase down your child and physically pull them off you. You are destroying the implicit trust in the swim instructor in the child’s eyes.
What should parents do when their child starts crying during a swim lesson:

  • Parents: Do not stare worriedly at your child from the observation area. Very important!!!

When the child is in swim lessons sometimes they will realize you are not with them and burst into tears in a flurry of separation anxiety. This is a dramatic case of a parent equally anxious about their child in swimming lessons conveying quite overtly how uncomfortable and scared they are. Because you are the child’s parent they will gravitate to your mood and emotions and respond accordingly.  Break eye contact or do something else.

• If the child is looking at the parent repeatedly reaching out for them the parent should remove themselves from the child’s sight.

Yup, go hide! Most swim lesson facilities have a secret spot where you can see the classes and watch your child, but the child either can’t see you or doesn’t realize that you’re in view.

Remember that the parent is not the focus of the swim lesson, the child is and the swim instructors will better engage the child when the parent is not also a member of the class.

Some reasons a child cry’s at swimming lessons: 

What causes fear of the water?

• Being forced into water activities with no preparation or expectation given in a hostile or unhelpful environment
• Being raised by parents that are themselves afraid of the water and have knowingly or unknowingly communicated this fear to their children
• Having had a traumatic water accident, or witnessing one
Remember, children LEARN to be afraid of the water.

Parents! DO NOT DO THESE THINGS

  • Stop lessons totally because child cried in the beginning.
  • Be scared for your child. All your anxiety to be picked up and amplified by your child. When you are nervous or uncertain, your child will pick up on all the unspoken and subtle body language and between the lines words you’re using to avoid participating.
  • Offer payoffs. “We’ll get ice cream for your good behavior today at swim lessons.” This reinforces a negative association with swimming lessons and the learning process.

Enrolling your child in swim lessons is an excellent choice. It is important to learn how to at least know the basics of how to swim. USA swimming through their Make a Splash arm has produced these interesting facts:

– Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of childhood accidental death
– Ten people drown each day in the U.S.
– Seven out of ten African-American children cannot swim
– Six out of ten Hispanic children cannot swim
– 40% of Caucasian children have low or no swimming ability
– Children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be
at-risk of drowning
– Participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning by 88%.
As a prevention measure, swim lessons are a great idea.

 

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