How to help your child overcome a fear of water

A confident swimmer is the best swimmer.

For many families, swimming pools or splash parks are essential to any BIG4 break.

Squeals of delight, hours of fun, and exhausted children who go to sleep with ease – everyone wins!

However, for some, it’s not that simple. Not all children take to swimming, well, like a duck to water.

If you’re in this boat, read on. Because these handy tips from our expert friends at Poolwerx might just help your child embrace the pool.

BIG4 parks and pools - the perfect match. Location: BIG4 Happy Hallidays, Hallidays Point, NSW.

Try to find the source of the anxiety

If your child is a water dodger, there’s often a good reason why.

They might not like being splashed, they may have seen other kids struggling in water, or they may have even seen a movie with sharks that has frightened them.

If your child is at speaking age, chat with them about their feelings towards water to determine if there is an underlying reason why they’re scared. Address the fear and offer reassurance.

Scratch the surface and you might find your child's association with water is a bigger deal than you realised.

Don’t force the issue

While it is good to encourage your kids to interact with water, forcing them into a pool before they’re ready could be counter-productive and increase their fear.

Focus on the small wins – baby steps – and use these as stepping stones towards reaching the final goal. If your kid wants to sit next to the pool with their feet hanging in, it’s a win. If they only want to go in the water with you, it’s progress.

Small gains are to be celebrated

Reassure, praise, and repeat

Following the above point, if your child has at least managed to get in the water but is determined to cling to you like a koala, view this as a win. Any time in the water is better than none. And by offering continual praise and reassurance about their safety, your child should start to feel more and more comfortable. Repetition, persistence, and patience are key here.

Constant reassurance about your child's safety should eventually pay dividends, particularly for 'clingy koalas'.

Use toys outside the pool

Introducing your child to a pool can be overwhelming for them if they haven’t had much exposure to water. To make your little one feel more at ease, use fun water games and toys that have nothing to do with a pool to start with.

Pool noodles and blow-up toys can be used outside the water. Sensory activities such as water beads or water balloons can also be a great starting point.

Looking for pool toys? Find them here.

Pool toys are a great way to ease uncertainty and fear.

Set pool rules with your older kids

If your child has siblings who love water, make sure there are guidelines when you’re around the pool to keep chaos to a minimum. These are good examples:

  • No splashing people in the face
  • No dunking people’s heads under water
  • No pushing people into the pool

A calmer environment may help your younger child to be more comfortable and more willing to hop in the water.

Siblings can set a great example for younger children.

Use other children as inspiration

We know that children often love to copy their peers’ actions, which can be both a good and bad thing! In this instance, use it to your advantage. If you’re in a pool with others, point out the actions of other children as a means of positive reinforcement. It might be a child jumping into their parents’ arms, floating on their back, or otherwise embracing water.

Not all kids are this relaxed in the pool, but those less confident can be inspired by such actions. Location: BIG4 Gold Coast Holiday Park, QLD.

Start from an early age

Water introduction can start from the minute you get home from the hospital with your new baby. Try to make the bathing experience as fun and interactive as possible – bath toys can be a great help.

If water is part of your bub’s everyday life from birth, it may help them be more comfortable with pools and beaches when they are older.

Whatever the case, breaking up these experiences into small, manageable steps will make the experience less stressful for both you and your kids and help children to learn to love water in a fun environment.

With many BIG4 pools undercover or heated, the desire for children to be comfortable around water can have a year-round impact. Location: BIG4 Ballarat Windmill Holiday Park, VIC.

For all things pool and spa related, visit the Poolwerx website.

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