As many of you know, our Way to Go, Juno DVD by Juno Baby deals with some common fears and concerns your toddler may have. One of the topics we get the most comments on is fear of the water! So, we've had our blog extraordinaire, Stephanie Parker write something on the subject:
It's summer time, and everyone has pulled out their swim suits. With perfectly pleasant, sun-shiny weather, well deserved time off from work, and a little cash in your pocket it's time to hit the beach and pool side. Unless, of course, you have a terrified toddler clinging to your legs and whimpering at the sight of anything big, blue, and wet. If you have ever tried to go on summer vacation with an aqua-phobic child, then you know that this is no laughing matter. Whether he/she is only a little afraid or full on terrified, dealing with a fear of the water can be a frustrating, time consuming job. But, as always, Juno Baby is here to help with a few tips and tricks to get your little one out of the car, and into those water wings.
Don't wait until your child is 5 or 6 to address a fear of the water. If your 1 yr old is showing signs of distress when he/she has to get into a bathtub, then you might want to make a trip to the beach or your local pool. Start introducing him/her to the water as soon as possible. Take it slow, of course. But, be persistent. Putting something like this off can lead to a more sever phobia in the following years to come. If the issue is never addressed, then you may even end up with an adult that can't swim, never frequents pools and beaches, and is missing out on a lot of good clean fun.
When you say you are going to take it slow, don't surprise him/her by simply tossing them in. While this may have worked for your dad's dad back in 1922, we in modern day 08' like to avoid emotionally scarring and traumatizing our children. Seriously. The old sink or swim method of introducing kids to water has only about a 50% chance of actually working. The other half is more likely to never go near water again than they are to become the next Olympic water polo champion. So when you promise to hold his/her hand tightly as you play at the waters edge, do so. With patience, your little one will be squealing and jumping in deeper and deeper in no time at all.
When putting these baby steps into practice, try the following:
- let him/her play in a kiddy pool when at the beach, rather than bringing them directly to the big ocean side.
- Buy them a good pair of goggles to protect their eyes and/or nose. Sometimes kids are only afraid of getting water in places they don't want it. A good set of ear plugs, or nose plugs can help too.
- Make sure he/she isn't suffering from what many call swimmers ear. If the fear of water is a recent development, it may be because your child is making the connection between water and pain.
- Teach them to float before teaching them to swim. This will help your child feel safe, because they know that anytime during the lesson they can just float to the surface and calm down.
- Join a class together. Mommy and me (or daddy, or grandmother, etc.) swim classes can be loads of fun, educational, and very helpful to a child that is only afraid of the water because he/she feels overwhelmed and out of control. Also, being around other children and their parents may ease any feelings of isolation.
- Water wings will give him/her the feeling of swimming without the danger of drowning. Just be sure to ween them off before they turn 6 or 7. By this age, your child should be able to swim on their own. If not, another class may be in order. Or, perhaps some one on one time at the pool is necessary. Remember, waiting too long to teach your child to be independent in the water is more harmful than helpful. A teen or adult that doesn't know how to swim is not only missing out on fun, but is at a disadvantage in emergency situations that may require him/her to swim.
When it's serious.
When your little one stops being afraid of the water, and starts being completely phobic, you may need to seek professional assistance. Child therapists are trained to help with this sort of thing, and may be able to better help your little one than you can in this kind of situation.
How to recognize a problem.
Knowing the difference between fear and terror is an important part of helping your child adapt to the water. Read below signs that can help you decide when he/she has a real problem.
- He/she cannot be soothed. Even after being removed from the water, they are worried about it.
- The fear is completely disproportionate to all common sense and reason. (i.e. fear would be whining, fussing, and avoidance. phobia would be crying, screaming, and panicked struggling even after the water is gone form sight.)
- They aren't simply afraid of pools and oceans, but anything containing a substantial amount of water. (i.e. a bathtub or small kiddy pool)
Remember to have patience and always exercise caution when introducing your child to the water. Always keep a sharp eye out, whether they are in the water or out of it. And, have fun.
This blog post was provided by Stephanie Parker - our blog writer extraordinaire!