The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Swim Instructor Common Question: Fear of the Water

Dear Swim Professor:

I want to ask you how you deal with young children who have fear in water? I’ve heard about lots of different approaches. Some say put them underwater so they’ll be forced to learn to swim. Others say let them play and have fun until they feel ready. And with these children to you think it’s better to give them support aids like life vests so they can just play in the water? Or will that delay their learning how to swim and help them rely on support and lose confidence in their own ability to swim without support?

Thanks for taking the time to read my question! I’m hoping you’ll be able to answer quickly.

Thanks again,
Chavie

Dear Chavie,

I admire your dedication on teaching children how to swim. What is just as impressive is that you are taking the initiative to research the best way to do it. What I am going to do in this blog is give you my short answer, and refer you to other blogs that I have already written on your common, but excellent questions to give you more detail.

1. Always use a child-centered approach. NEVER force. The child’s enjoyment of the process is just as important as the outcome. In fact, it is more important.
2. While unstructured play is good and encouraged, you can and should also incorporate age-appropriate “activities” in your swimming lesson setting. In other words, you make learning to swim feel like play, though you are actually teaching the child how to swim. This is paramount when teaching preschoolers how to swim.
3. If you use one of the SLU approved “Progressive Flotation devices” CORRECTLY, your students will not only learn to swim faster, but swimming will be a more enjoyable experience (and a safer one).

Here is what I would recommend that you do:
1. Go to SEARCH BOX on the right side of this blog page and type in the following topics:
Fearful
            Flotation
            Swim 101
When you search these keywords, you will find more specific information AND more thorough answers to your questions. Many of them also include video examples as well.

2. The second thing I would recommend is that you consider taking our Swim Lessons University courses. All courses are video-based and you can take the certification exams online. Swim Lessons University training and certification is now being used by YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Swim Schools, Pool Management companies, and private swimming instructors in 31 states and 11 countries.

Based on your questions today, I would get started on these Swim Instructor Training courses:
1. Teach Like a Pro – The Foundations of Teaching
2. From Tears to Cheers – How to Help Children Overcome Their Fears (audio program)
3. Swim 101 – A Comprehensive Video Course for Teaching Young Children How to Swim

Once you go through the video course, then  go to Instructor Tools to take your online swim instructor certification exam. We also recommend 3 hours of practicum training per course with a Swim Lessons University certified Learn-to-Swim Professional.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at jreiser@swimprofessor.com or CALL us toll-free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

Warm Regards,

Jim Reiser

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim is the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com  We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

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January 9, 2014 at 1:32 pm Comments (0)

Fearful Swimmers

One of the most difficult things for a swim instructor is developing the confidence that YOU CAN turn most any fearful swim lesson student into a happy swimmer.  No matter how scared the child may appear, you can do it!

Here are a few strategies that work:

1. Take control. Don’t allow the parent to take over how you are going to “tackle” the situation.  You are the expert.  If you take control and do it right, these Fearful Swimmer Techniques WILL WORK!

2. Acknowledge their Fears. Ask the child, “are you scared?”  When they respond “yes,” tell them “it’s okay to be scared.”  Tell the fearful swimmer that even grown-ups get scared sometimes.

3.  Don’t force the child in the water right away. Tell the child, “I want you to just sit here with mom/dad and watch.  That’s all I want you to do.  Tell the parent to avoid talking to them about getting in the water right now.  Just let the child calm down.  Whether the child “normally” loves the water and/or what the child does in their residential or neighborhood pool is irrelevant here.  This is a NEW situation and their fears are REAL.

4.  NEVER ask the child “do you want to get in the pool?” The answer will almost always will be “No!”

5.  INSTEAD–Redirect the child. If you are teaching the “Let’s Go Grocery Shopping” activity from the Swim 101 DVD, you might say:  “Do you like bananas or ice cream cones (assuming you have those props floating in the pool).  When they reply “ice cream cones,” you confidently and without hesitation use a secure hold bring them right into the water.  CONTINUE to redirect their attention, encourage them, and reassure the young swimmer.

These five simple techniques are EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE!  Yes, you may get  some resistance as you are bringing a scared swimmer into the water, but that should be expected.  Give it enough time (15-30 seconds) to go get the toy and bring it back before you give up.  And never, never,  give up!  But what I mean is, if the child is still very upset, go back to step #1 and REPEAT these five steps.

I would estimate this fearful child progression will turn tears into cheers 95% of the time.  If you don’t have success after the first class, invite mom or dad to join the class with you the next time just until the child gets comfortable with you.  Much of their fears can be attributed to stranger anxiety, a new place, etc.   Give them the security they need and keep it child focused–don’t take the security away.

For more tips, check out my From Tears to Cheers Audio CD. Swim school owners and program directors  like to share this with their staff in swim instructor training sessions.  Even share it with parents!

YOU CAN turn tears into cheers!  No skill is more important than learning to swim.   Whatever you do–don’t give up!  And the more you do it, the easier it will be…. Look at every fearful child as an experience that will help you grow into an even better swimming instructor.  Good luck!

The International Swimming Hall of Fame has named Jim Reiser the recipient of the 2015 Virginia Hunt Newman Award for his curriculum and approach in teaching infants, toddlers, and children to swim.  Jim was the first American to win the award in 10 years.

If you would like to learn more about the Swim Lessons University certification program and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com 

We have training and certification programs designed for both private instructors as well as organizations like YMCAs, Recreation Departments, Athletic Clubs, and more.

Swim Lessons University is currently being utilized by recreation departments, YMCAs, America Camp Association swim lessons programs, as well as by private swimming instructors in 45 states and over 30 countries!

You can also call us toll free at 1-866-498-SWIM (7946).

 

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June 2, 2011 at 1:17 am Comments (7)