How To Handle Those Swim Lesson Tears
Many young swimmers often cry when they first begin swim lessons. Sometimes the tears start at home when you begin to pull the bathing suit out of the drawer. Other children begin crying when the car drives up to the building. Some kids wait until the moment mom hands him over to the teacher for the tears to come. Whatever the timing, many children deal with some level of anxiety when it comes to new experiences even if they initially seem very excited about the process.
It is important for parents to know that they are not alone in dealing with this struggle. We know you feel bad for your little one and we also know that you might feel a little embarrassed about the spectacle your child has created on the pool deck. These are all common feelings, but there are things we can do to help make this easier for our children.
First, we need to look at why our children crying. Most of the time, we can attribute crying at swim lessons to separation anxiety, especially if this is the child’s first independent activity away from mom and dad. The tears could also be a result of a previous negative experience with lessons or with the water. Or, the child could really dislike the sensation of water in his eyes or ears.
You can ease your little one’s fears by doing the following:
Stay out of the direct line of sight of your child. Children tend to acclimate to swim lessons more quickly if they cannot see you. In order to stop crying, a child needs to build trust with his or her instructor, but an instructor cannot compete the security that mom and dad bring to the child. When your child sees that you trust the instructor and can walk away, he will realize that he can trust his instructor, too! We have three viewing areas in our Evolution Swim Academy facility – the best place if your child is crying is in our playroom with one-way glass. You can comfortably watch the swim lesson which your child begins to build trust with his instructor.
Reinforce positive behaviors. Celebrate all of your child’s positive behaviors and your child will be more likely to repeat those positive behaviors at the next lesson. Things like listening to the instructor, getting in the water calmly, not crying, and learning new skills are all things that should be celebrated! Congratulate your child on a job well done and offer positive praise and encouragement
Practice at home. Even if you do not have a pool at home, a lot of skills can still be reinforced on dryland or in the bathtub. Submersions, bubbles, and floating can be done from the comfort of your child’s bathtub. Take every opportunity to swim – on vacations, your community pool, or a friend’s pool. Remember, water safety should always be top of mind when taking advantage of these extra swimming opportunities.
Keep coming to lessons. We know if it is difficult to continue coming to lessons week after week when you fear your child will cry, however, stopping lessons shows your child that it is acceptable to quit something without giving it a fair try. It also might teach your child that swimming isn’t an important activity.
Refrain from exposing your own anxiety to your child. Just like your little one, you are probably experiencing a lot of emotions about these swim lessons. If your child notices that you are upset or anxious about swim lessons, he or she will pick on these emotions. However, if you are calm and relaxed, your child is more likely to mimic that behavior.
Learning how to swim will offer your child so many opportunities beyond swim lessons. Your role in helping them beyond their first lesson tears is incredibly impactful and will help them on their way to success!