The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

Fear of the Water or Stranger Anxiety?

Swimming Instructors and parents alike often mistake Stranger Anxiety with Fear of the Water.  According to child psychologists, the child is likely thinking something like, “I don’t know who you are or what you want from me, so I’m sticking close to Mom.”

According to Dr. Avelet, a contributing writer for Parent Magazine, “Fear of strangers is a healthy, protective fear — children should not go to people they don’t know.”  Of course this is a downside for a child’s first few swimming lessons.  According to Dr. Talmi, children should be given plenty of time to get to know someone before expecting her to interact and be friendly to them.   This certainly includes a new swim instructor.

I think it’s important that we, as Learn-to-Swim Professionals, help parents understand this.  I can’t tell you how many times in my career I have heard parents say, “I don’t understand, he loves the water.  Or she loves to swim.   Or the parent says to the child:  what’s wrong with you?  You love to swim in our pool!”

As LTS Professionals, we have to intervene as quickly as possible and let the parent know this most likely a case of stranger anxiety, not swimming pool anxiety, and it will go away.   We just need to give her some time.  I want you to stay by your child’s side as we interact today and maybe even next time.   The key is that we give her as much time as she needs.

As you, the parents, and possibly your other students model friendly behaviors, the fearful child will naturally warm up to you and the new situation.   For more on helping children overcome their fears, check out the Swim Lessons University audio program From Tears to Cheers.

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 Online Swim Instructor Certification  and curriculum, make sure to visit us at www.SwimLessonsUniversity.com

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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August 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm Comment (1)

Fearful Teen Swimmer

Dear Swim Professor,

I’ve been a swim instructor for 30 years and love my job.  I generally teach infants and young children to swim, and have prided myself in turning reluctant swimmers around.  That is the most rewarding part of my job.

This summer, I’ve taken on a 13 yr old girl, much older than my normal clientele who will not put her face in the water.  I’ve searched and searched for ideas of how to get her to go “under” for just the smallest increments of time to no avail.  HELP!!  Can you direct me or give me some ideas on how to help her overcome her fears of  the water?  I’m not even sure they are fears; maybe control with her parents would be a better description of her reluctance.  But her parents want her to swim this summer.  Do you have any info on this subject that you can direct me too?  Your information is generally so helpful!!

Thanks,

Coach Cheri C.

Dear Coach Cheri,

Well it’s the last part of what you wrote that concerns me: “Her parents” want her to swim by the end of this summer, not their daughter–your teen student.  And if I may put it in my own words– your 13 year old student may be “rebelling against her parents” like 13 year olds are known to do and do well!

It’s unfortunate that the parents just decided now that they wanted her to learn to swim, but as the saying goes– it’s better late than never.   At any rate, I know you are up for the challenge.  While your case may be rather complex, my solution is going to be really quite simple.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Talk to your teen student’s parents on the phone (or in person) but not in front of their daughter.  Dig and listen.  The parents likely “hold the key” to the answer to the problem.
  2. Once you listen and learn as much as you can to the parents, give them some sound advice on how they can help the process.
  • It’s important that they understand that their daughter needs to decide it’s important to her.
  • It’s important they understand that encouraging their daughter and teaming up with her vs. threatening her or ridiculing her is key.
  • It’s important that the daughter feels that her parents genuinely want this for her, not for them.

Those are just a few examples, but you will have a better feel for what kind of advice the parents need more than I do once you listen to what they have to say.

3.  You need to EARN the daughter’s desire to please you.  Once you develop a strong rapport and bond with her, she will want to impress you, and the magic will begin.

But really and truly though, we all know there is no so such thing as magic, although it often appears there is….  And you will appear to be magical yourself when you break through.  Nevertheless, my instincts tell me this is about good psychology, much more than it is about swim teaching x’s and o’s.  Put on you psych hat and you’ll teach this young lady to swim!

To your success!

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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July 13, 2011 at 1:51 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)