Tears for Fears
Tears for Fears
Young babies have a natural affinity to water. However, there may be times when your baby becomes restless or upset in their swimming lesson.
No parent likes to see their child’s tears, and a common reaction of parents to tears in a swim lesson is to become panicked or embarrassed over the way the child is behaving, or instead to think “my child just doesn’t like the water”.
Parents need to be aware of the potential reactions of their child in a swim lesson, and they need to understand why such reactions occur and how to apply appropriate solutions that ensure the lesson is both enjoyable and beneficial to the baby.
Swim lessons can interfere with the sleep or feeding routine of the child. Signs that this is the case may include rubbing eyes, falling asleep, or baby indicating a need for milk/food. If this is happening, parents should check for alternative class times or try and adjust their routines accordingly.
Cold is another factor that can upset the child. A sun-shirt or wetsuit can help, as can simply keeping baby’s shoulders under the water as much as possible throughout the lesson away from any drafts or breezes. Swim lessons expose an infant to a completely new environment.
The involvement with other parents and children, the noises generated through laughter, singing and splashing, and the immersion in the water itself, all add up to a completely different sensory experience. Take small steps if your baby is overwhelmed. Talk to your baby in a calm and positive manner, maintain close skin and eye contact, and focus solely on one activity at a time.
Babies should be placed in age-appropriate classes that ensure the activities they complete in a swim lesson are developmentally appropriate.
Our instructors are trained to be able to provide alternative activities to cater for the level of a child, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice.
Toddlers around 15 months old who, through a lack of exposure to aquatic-based experiences, have lost their affinity to water are more likely to be fearful of water than babies who have been in the water from say 3-6 months.
To help prevent the development of this kind of anxiety around water, parents should try to make the regular bath/shower/pool times they share with their baby as fun, secure, and as relaxing as possible. Avoid pushing too hard in water-related activities, and be playful and patient.
Another way to calm an upset child in the water is through distraction. Toys are excellent stimulants and provide a wonderful distraction. The use of noise, through tapping or singing for example, is also effective. Talk, and particularly soothing and reassuring talk, is a vital component of making baby feel comfortable and at ease in the water.
If your child is strong-willed and the type that seems to prefer to do his/her own thing in lessons rather than what you or the instructor wants, remain firm with your child, and persist with activities that challenge them.
Such lack of challenge may be seen through tantrums, boredom or misbehaviour. Ignore the negative behaviour, and focus on the positive behaviour of your child. A final reaction is that of genuine fear which is normally a result of a previous bad experience in water, or through parental fears which the child has learned by association.
Young children absorb so much of their parent’s reactions, and are very in tune with the facial expressions, body language, and spoken language of their parents. If a child hears things like, ‘don’t go near the water, you’ll drown” or “it’s dangerous”, their own attitude to water will be negative.
Use positive language and maintain a watchful but relaxed attitude near water. If you are anxious yourself around water, consider taking some adult classes to improve your own water confidence and skills. Frightened children need to be treated differently, and require small steps and a special amount of patience and time to be able to explore the water environment at their own pace.
Always try to end the lesson on a happy note, so the child remembers their time in the water as a positive experience. Finally, if your baby cries, at all costs avoid getting out of the pool prematurely out of frustration or your own feelings of embarrassment. Stay in the pool, find a quiet area, and take a little bit of time to comfort baby, then rejoin the class as soon as baby is calm. If you exit the pool whenever your baby cries, baby will associate becoming upset with getting out of the pool, or indeed will learn to associate crying with having an activity stopped (a bad habit when it comes to going to day care or preschool). Remember, it is normal for a child to occasionally become upset during a swim lesson.
Try to temper any frustration you may be feeling and, if your baby seems tense or upset during the course of an activity, use common sense and take a step back to a level at which they feel more comfortable.
A baby’s progress in the water will not always be consistent and will be affected by many factors including the emotional wellbeing and happiness of the child. Accordingly, it is important for parents to be mindful of the same in respect of the aquatic education of their child. © 2010 Julia Ham/Hampton Swim School Pty Ltd