You’ve attended your child’s swimming lesson every week since they were 3 months old. You’ve watched them improve each lesson, and they’re at the stage where they can swim without your help. Your child’s teacher has just told you that, “your child is ready to move up to the next level and swim without you”. You get to your child’s first solo lesson, and instead of watching them swim like a fish, you watch them cry for you and refuse to swim.
Is this happening to you right now? As teachers, this scenario is one we see often, and parents ask us what they can do to help. Rest assured that this is quite natural, and that there is no ‘normal’ here. Swimming lessons can be like the first day you left your child at daycare. Some children will confidently run off with their new friends and have great adventures, while other children will be scared and let everyone in the area know about it.
For children that have never had a swimming lesson before, the whole experience can be overwhelming. They have to develop trust in their teacher (who is a complete stranger), and they are in an unfamiliar situation in an unfamiliar environment.
For children that have been in swimming lessons from an early age, this ‘fear’ usually stems from the fact that they have only swum with their parents. Although their teacher has been with them every step of the way, the child has always had their parents within arms length, and therefore hasn’t had to trust their teacher.
No matter which category your child falls into, there are three simple suggestions you can use to help your child if they are upset or scared of swimming without you. Remember, swimming teachers are there to help build your child’s confidence in the water, and developing trust with you and your child is naturally part of this process.
1. Go away and come back later
As hard as it is to leave their upset child, the best thing parents can do is to walk away. Maybe you could go have a coffee. Or perhaps hide some place where you can see them, but they can’t see you. This will give your child’s teacher the chance to show them that their swimming lesson can be fun. This also lets your child forget about needing their parents and allow them to develop trust in their teacher. After a few lessons of doing this, your child will stop crying because they will feel comfortable doing their lesson without you in the water.
2. Arrive at swimming in ‘good’ time
Our second tip is to make sure you arrive at your child’s lesson in good time. If you arrive too early, it allows your child to get worked up and emotional about getting in by themselves. If you arrive late, the rush will likely cause you and your child to be in a stressed and emotional state before the lesson starts.
3. ‘Talk up’ swimming with your child
The third and most important thing you can do is to show them positive emotions about swimming lessons. Children can sense your emotions and can tell if you’re upset about seeing them upset. This in turn can make them even more upset. You need to try and keep a check on your emotions. Instead of worrying if your child is going to cry, talk to them about how awesome their lesson will be. Reinforce that you’re proud of them, and that their instructor will keep them safe.
If you have a question you would like answered, feel free to get in touch with us via our Facebook page or email. You can also ask one of our friendly staff members for advice. For more articles like this one, pop on over to our News and Facebook pages.