My daughter was afraid of water when she was about 2 years old. Her fear was real. I could not ignore it. Knowing her sensitive personality, I couldn’t throw her in the deep pool, river or sea to overcome this fear. The bath time was a real battle ground. I am sure all my neighbours knew it was precisely 7 o’clock as they heard her scream every evening at bath time. I tried a new bright colour towel (to cover her face), new goggles (to stop water going into her eyes) and various bath toys (for distraction) but the screaming continued for what seemed like forever.
Eventually she got used to the sensation of the water on her face and bath time became more peaceful for all. However, that didn’t translate to swimming in a pool. I took her many times and ended up walking around the pool while she held onto me for dear life. She didn’t even dip her toes into the water.
How did this happen?
She used to love swimming as a baby when we did Parent & Baby swimming lessons, always beaming and smiling in the water. Due to a combination of stopping weekly lessons after my return to work and her suffering from an illness for several months, my little girl did not step a foot into a swimming pool for a very long time. Six months is an eternity for a two-year old child, so she had completely forgotten what it would feel like to float in the water. I really wished I kept up with her swimming lessons – but it was too late once her fear kicked in.
Some Sports Generation customers stop swimming lessons as soon as they see that their children are fearful of the water. As parents we don’t want our children to be upset. It would also seem like a waste of money if the child does not even get into the water.
We strongly recommend parents persevere with swimming lessons because fear of water will not go away on its own. In fact, a long absence from swimming could make the situation worse, as I have witnessed first-hand with my girl. Swimming is a vital life skill that everyone should acquire to stay safe.
The initial (and essential) part of the journey is that children must learn to feel at ease in water. This is a fundamental building block and we can’t teach any swimming skills without it. In our view, the only way to overcome the fear of water is to learn how water feels against the body and realise water is not scary. It does not hurt your eyes or ears and the water certainly does not swallow you up. Our world-class coaches have quite a few tricks under their sleeves to help them with this process. For non-swimmers, our warm and calm private pools are a much better place to start lessons than a big, cold and noisy leisure centre.
I put my daughter into swimming lessons after my failed attempts at a pool and she has not stopped swimming ever since. I am so pleased that she carried on. My screaming, water-petrified child is now a regional level competitive swimmer at a local swimming club.