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How do you help a child who’s worried about swimming?

We are sometimes asked by parents of little ones who have a fear of the water or who are worried about swimming what they can do to help, and how they'll be supported with overcoming these fears in their lessons.

It is important never to rush things, because just as children develop at different stages on land, it's exactly the same in the water. 

The main thing is to stay relaxed and have fun – if you start to force an activity on a child when they are nervous, they will respond with resistance, develop further nerves and the lesson will not be enjoyable.

We asked our teachers if they had any tips for parents, or if they had experienced nervous swimmers.

Jo has been teaching as a baby and pre-school teacher for Puddle Ducks Greater Manchester for 6 years and has experienced first-hand as a teacher numerous little ones who are worried about swimming.  Jo says "I would always say to parents to take it slowly, don’t push your child to do something they aren’t ready to do. Sit on the side until they are happy to get in, and watch until they want to get involved with the activity. If they become too overwhelmed, take them to the side and have a little play, maybe with their backs to the class so it takes their mind off it. I also sometimes suggest bringing a water safe toy that might help encourage them to get in the water."

Jo says she will also reassure the parent that it’s not unusual for little ones to be nervous and that they can get involved when they’re ready. 

We think this is great advice, and have often seen little ones bringing a favourite toy to watch them being super brave in their lesson!

Stacey, who teaches our baby and pre-school and also Swim Academy classes, has recently experienced first hand a sudden change in one of her swimmers, and worked with the child and parent to help overcome these new fears. 

"A swimmer recently all of a sudden seemed to be quite apprehensive at lessons, where he was confident before. I worked with mum on getting through this, and made most activities into a little game to bring the fun back and get him laughing again. I’ve also had this particular swimmer bring a toy that can go in the water and told him he has to show the certain character how well he can swim and do different activities like jumping in."

We find that children who also swim with their family outside of structured lessons progress from being nervous much quicker than others, and so we'll always recommend swimming outside of lessons, having lots of fun and allowing your child to lead.  There's also lots of fun activities you can do at home with little ones involving water, such as blowing bubbles in the bath or, as suggested by Nicole, another of our baby and pre-school teachers, filling a see through container and using this to put their face in and blow bubbles, so they can see the bottom. 

Our teachers are all highly trained in dealing with cases where little ones are worried about the water, or even just certain activities, and will work with both parent and child so that we find activities they enjoy and move it on from there.

Has your little one ever experienced any worries about swimming and managed to overcome these worries?  We'd love to hear from you. 

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