Breaking the Wall of Fear in the Swimming Pool - Bangkok Prep

Breaking the Wall of Fear in the Swimming Pool

Water familiarity is the primary theme of children’s very first swimming ‘lessons’ and it is simply that – becoming familiar and comfortable being in water.

There should never be a clock on how long it takes a new swimmer to become comfortable in water and like most developmental stages, children progress at a different pace. These early lessons should also not be about technique.

We do not have the luxury of setting time schedules for when someone will lose their fear of water or feel completely comfortable. Also, sophisticated instruction to a child who is consumed with fear is as effective as a band aid on a gunshot wound. What is required is patience from both educator and parent, and of course the consistency of the child being exposed to swimming.

Many parents feel incredible distress during this early stage as some children stress about the upcoming lesson. Many children learn what day of the week their swimming lesson is and the night before the lesson becomes a living nightmare for both parent and child. In some extreme cases, children begin missing the whole day of school for the sake of avoiding the swimming lesson. In other cases parents amass substantial financial cost of facilitating solicited doctor’s notes.

Professional swimming teachers have empathy for the parents who are placed under duress from their child at home. These teachers also realise they do not have to deal with the ‘conflict’ at home.

However this stage is the most crucial for consistency in breaking that seemingly endless wall of fear. It’s a stage where both parent and teacher need to work closely together with the parent communicating freely and the teacher supporting the development at home. It is also important that the parent has an understanding of what the teaching process is. It is not a guarded secret.

Parents should never feel like they are on their own in this journey.

As mentioned in the last article. Breaking the fear of water is far more challenging the older the swimmer. That fear has festered and compounded. Removing the fear is like taking down a brick wall but it must be done brick by brick.

There are two main teaching parts in the beginning of a child’s education in water familiarity and both are as important as each other.

Buoyancy: Body positioning is everything in swimming and we move through the water efficiently and correctly by being in the horizontal position. Floating is also a water safety skill as by lying on our back we are able to conserve energy if needed. One of the first lessons a child will get in a structured swimming lesson is laying on their back with arms and legs extended in a star shape. We call this the ‘starfish’ position. The teacher places their hand under the back of the child, supporting the child, while the child learns to relax and ultimately float. Please note that some children react the same way a cat would react to being on their back in water! The building of trust will be time expensive but a value that is priceless once achieved.

Mobility: This is feeling movement in the water with both limbs. And it is all about FEELING – let the child explore this movement and you will see the child gain greater independence gradually and happily. Any flotation support should be around the torso and not on the limbs as this creates a false sense of mobility. Please do not use arm floats as it hinders future learning and time will be needed to correct.

The most important thing is to be patient and know that by consistency and exposure in a calm environment, the wall is coming down.

 

Please reach out if you need – mferrier@bkkprep.ac.th

 

Matt Ferrier

Primary Swim Teacher

 

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