Our Swim School Operations Manager Rachael passes on her tips to help with anxiety in our young swimmers – from beginners through to those transitioning to a new level.
In all my years of being involved in the aquatics industry and teaching swimming, I have seen many children anxious about swimming lessons. Swimming itself is not actually the problem – water is the problem, and fear of it.
This fear can make people feel uncomfortable in water, they are afraid of something. It makes sense to be afraid in the water until you know how it works and how to be in control while in it.
And children are no different.
Here are a few little tips and tricks I have learned along the way to help with the anxious little swimmer.
Before the first lesson, arrange a time to come to the pools when your child’s instructor is teaching another class. Perhaps introduce your child and let them know you are visiting and are looking forward to coming along to their first swimming lesson on your set date.
Sit on the side of the pool with your child and watch the lesson. Seeing the children jumping, splashing and kicking their legs on the mat might be enough to ease their feelings of anxiousness.
Take a tour of the facility and include the National Aquatic Centre and perhaps morning tea or lunch in one of the cafés. This helps to create a happy experience.
On the day of your lesson, prepare by packing the togs and goggles, loading the car, getting to the pools, finding a park, paying for the park and finally coming into see us in the office! This is all before actually getting your child in the water.
If you’re running late, and start feeling stressed and anxious about not getting to the pools on time, this can rub off onto your child. We have witnessed children having a meltdown simply because they have the wrong coloured togs or their parent has left the goggles at home.
Children’s feelings need to be acknowledged. It’s important that we listen and ask them questions, thereby not dismissing their concerns. Having a conversation about what their fears are might be enough to console them.
If your child is still anxious about swimming before each lesson, positive reinforcement or a reward might be enough to motivate them to participate in the group. Suggest a favourite activity after swimming, or a reward that you know will resonate with your child.
Moving up a level can also create anxiety. The child who has participated and been the best swimmer in the group is now going to move up a level with a group of children they aren’t familiar and be required to perform tasks that are new.
For the older child, they generally don’t want to stand out or embarrass themselves in front of their peers. Moving from the National Aquatic Centre to the Main Pool is a big jump for some children. Here, the same principle applies as a child’s first swimming lesson. Take a tour of the AUT Millennium Building. See our classes in full swing, meet the teacher, and come along to the exact lesson one week prior. Ensure your child knows what to expect, which will ease their anxiety slightly.
These tips should help your child feel more excited about coming to swimming. We are here to help your children become confident in the water and develop a passion for all things aquatic.
Swim School Operations Manager