Our core philosophy at In The Deep is creating a beautifully relaxed relationship with the water, free from fear. We're often asked, how to help kids overcome their fears of the water? The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Every child is different, so when they're fearful, we search for their unique 'magic switch' – finding the thing we can do to switch their struggle to success!
So how can we all help kids overcome their fear of the water?
Progressions in swimming lessons.
In lessons, the simple answer is progressions; it's all about building confidence, one achievable step at a time. If a child is terrified of putting their face in the water, we start slow. Rushing through steps doesn’t work either; we've seen this enough to know that it can slow progress by doing too much, too quickly. Slow it down.
Pressure and expectations are not helpful.
Parents, please take note — putting pressure on your child can hinder their progress.
This is a journey, not a race!
It's stressful to the teacher, who then pushes the child further than they're ready for, and the child in turn feels that pressure, creating unnecessary stress. The less pressure, the faster the results.
Let them play.
Encouraging play is a vital aspect of our approach at In The Deep. Children thrive when they're given the freedom to play in the water without the constant pressure to achieve specific milestones. The beauty of kids lies in their natural inclination to play – even during those brief two-minute waits for their turn in a lesson, they're on the step, joyfully practicing what they've learned! It's an innate quality that we cherish.
Play holds significant importance because it allows kids to engage with the water on their terms and at their own pace. We all appreciate the value of practicing without someone scrutinising our every move, don't we? We believe that learning is enhanced when children are granted the space to explore their developing skills independently.
So, at your local pool, observe and engage with your child in a relaxed manner – without any undue pressure. Watch as they utilise the skills and tools acquired in lessons, instinctively exploring and enjoying the water on their own. This playtime not only reinforces their learning but also contributes to a positive and joyful association with the water.
Release the tension.
When our muscles are tense, we tend to sink in the water. Not a great strategy for swimming!
Sometimes, kids overcoming their fear in the water isn’t just about anxiety; it could stem from a past traumatic experience. We take it slow and use methods like gentle exercises such as our side sweeps, combined with pleasant conversation to distract and ease their minds. One of our go-to's is 'what did you have for breakfast?!' We're getting them used to the feel of the water while they're thinking about their delicious morning meal!
Talking it out can help kids overcome their fears of the water.
Talking it out is powerful. Understanding a child’s fears and reassuring them can make a huge difference. It could be as simple as discussing a bad dream they've had about sharks and then playfully checking underwater and confirming there are none. Fun for us, and reassuring for them!
Whatever you do, don't give up on them.
No matter what, perseverance is key when it comes to helping children overcome their fear of the water. We understand it can be a gradual process, and sometimes it takes longer than expected. In such instances, we tap into our most innovative methods and collaborate as a team to assist a child in breaking through their mental barriers – locating their magic switch!
One memorable case involved a student who was deeply afraid of back-floating for an extended period. At In The Deep, giving up is not in our vocabulary. Following various trials and tribulations, we devised a special half-hour back-float workshop with the entire team. Through a combination of fun, gentle challenges, and our persuasive skills, the child not only overcame the fear but ended up loving back-floats by the session's end. This success story highlights the importance of persistence and creative problem-solving in swimming lessons.
Credit is also due to the parents who stood by their child throughout this journey. It serves as a valuable lesson for all of us — sometimes finding the right method requires dedication and a bit of trial and error.
We often give up too easily, but overcoming challenges is a life lesson we must honour. It reinforces the notion that having a support system and rallying behind each other is crucial in helping children to overcome their fear.
Find a balance between feeling safe, yet challenged to learn.
We want kids to feel safe while being nudged out of their comfort zones to grow. Developing our program's progressions so that we meet kids exactly where they're at, without taking them too far, giving them the space and time to get it right is how we strike a balance. It's part of our secret sauce that gradually pushes them forward without causing harm.
A reward fuels motivation.
Kids want our ribbons. They're cute, but it's the meaning behind them that they want the most. They represent the perseverance they've gone through to achieve one, and love the praise and celebration they receive. Using ribbons as a ‘carrot’ during lessons gives kids a healthy dose of motivation to conquer their fears.
In the realm of water, which can be perceived as dangerous for many children, our approach is transformative. We recognise that, in various cultures and societies, water serves essential roles — be it a source of income or the means to collect drinking water for survival. In Australia we’re incredibly lucky – we celebrate water as a playground, a source of absolute joy and connection.
Guiding a child to overcome their fear of water into a joyful relationship is a truly beautiful endeavour. Seeing kids flourish in the water opens their lives up to a realm of freedom, self-discovery, creativity, and joy.
From a timid start, barely putting their face in the water, to confidently performing summersaults and handstands with ease; it instills in us more than just a feeling of safety; in invites us to recognise the importance of having fun in our lives.
We're deeply passionate at In The Deep about redefining the narrative around water, making it a place of wonder rather than fear. Imagine a world where every child had the opportunity to overcome their fears of the water! Oh, the places we could go...
Don't delay – start your child's journey with us today!
Sea you in the water,