When I was little, I hated swimming. To the point that I would sit on the step and scream. Mum gave the reigns over to dad and we would take private lessons. I remember clinging for dear life to the edge of the pool, the whites of my knuckles showing. I remember the screaming. It must have been horrible for my parents. I don’t need to be reminded of just how dreadful it was. Apparently, my husband was the same. Thankfully, as with most things, I grew out of this and grew a love for the ocean when we moved to Western Australia, when I was 8. When my first son was 18 months (he is now 4, next week), we stopped swimming lessons. It was winter, we were renovating our house and we had moved out. I can’t even remember the next ‘water encounter’ but it must have been that following summer. Poor thing. He didn’t want a bar of it. He had lost all of his confidence. I felt awful. We had totally dropped the ball on something so important, BUT I was determined that history wouldn’t repeat itself. The thought of my already sensitive little poppet not liking the water made me sad and in some ways that I had failed him. So, we have embarked on my own version of water exposure, initially led by Master one with some guidance from me as he gained confidence. I have observed other little sensitive beings who are resistant to the water (for whatever reason) so hopefully this may help you, if you need it!
Firstly, I have to say having a pool in our new home has helped immensely as we had access every day. But, if you don’t have one I would highly recommend private lessons (perhaps in a friends pool). Sometimes the influence of peers helps (when kids see other kids having fun, they copy) but I personally have found privately gaining confidence has meant a more positive experience in public (for you and your child!). If you can’t get your child near the pool, try going to the beach/river which is what I did. There were more enjoyable elements (like playing in the sand, and you only have to get your toes wet).
- Go as OFTEN as you can
- ACCEPT that they won’t go from hating the water to liking it straight away, it will be gradual and you might have days where you feel like things have gone backwards. Rest assured they haven’t, they probably just didn’t feel like it today.
- PRAISE for small achievements (verbal or physical rewards)
- Be POSITIVE (this is how you speak to them)
- Recognise your own AGENDA. It’s not all about your little person. If you are worried for them, annoyed – they will be aware of the negative feelings. Try to be conscious of this.
- EXTEND their skill. If they have achieved something (going to the next step in the pool), praise and ask them to try the next step. TRY once and then stop. You will know your child’s limitations.
- Every exposure is to try and gain small amounts of confidence.
- Have a GOAL. Our goal was only for Master one to be happy and confident in the water. Enough to get to swimming lessons without public meltdowns.
Not only is Master one back at swimming lessons. He loves it.
We did it! HOORAY! We stopped history repeating itself.
Stay tuned! this is Part One of the different COLOURS of motherhood and all the wonderful shades in between.