Fear and Empathy in the Swimming Pool - Bangkok Prep

Fear and Empathy in the Swimming Pool

Each year brings new children to a school, and it’s a new environment for them.  They have new friends, new teachers, and for some: the completely new experience of swimming in a big pool.

For many children this is quite daunting, as all children notice the depth of a pool long before anything else to do with the pool. They instinctively know that the depth is bigger than them.

Putting their head underwater is akin to us landing on Mars. Water is 780 times thicker than air and when someone submerges in water all the senses are affected, particularly sound where it becomes distinctly muffled. This “loss of the senses” can be very daunting, even terrifying, for someone who has never been exposed to structured swimming instruction.

Thailand has 2,815km of world class coastline and an incredible 40% of its farmed land is rice paddies. This is a significant amount of open water.  It also does not even count the 5 major river systems.

In most cases young Thai children do not have access to swimming lessons. Their parents didn’t.  Their grandparents didn’t. The lack of confidence around water can become a generational lesson around avoidance, rather than a life skill.

In Thailand, four children under the age of 15 die each DAY from drowning.

Read that again.

Parents in rural Thailand rarely have physical protections for their children from drowning. They can’t put up fences. They don’t have safety devices.  In most cases nearby rescuers also cannot swim.

How do they protect their children from drowning without the above?

They make their children frightened of the water. This is their best defense. They tell the children there are spirits in the water, ghosts, and monsters. You cannot blame them. There is not much else they can do.

Though think again for the families of those 120 children that will drown in Thailand this month.

Ask if there is anything better than making our children the best that they can be.  So that they can grow up and have the confidence and eventually as a parent to teach their own children. The domino effect of being able to pass on life skills such as swimming is truly powerful.

Teaching water familiarity is a slow process and it is like learning a foreign language, it becomes challenging the older the child. It takes time for trust to be built.  It takes time for fears or myths to be shown in the light.

It requires empathy from the teacher, and most importantly consistency of lessons.

Next week I will write about the 2 key teaching points for Water Familiarity.


Matt Ferrier

Primary Swim Teacher

Our Campus


BANGKOK, 10110

77 สุขุมวิท 77 วัฒนา
กรุงเทพมหานคร 10110