Swimming has never been a
joke in my family. Since the day each of my boys was born I wanted them to be
comfortable in the water.
I had a niece who wouldn't even let her parents get
her face wet in the bath when she was 5 years old. She freaked out when she was
in a pool if her face went under. I didn't want that for my kids. We were
around water all the time. They had to get comfortable in the water, whether
they wanted to or not. More importantly, they needed to know how to be safe in
the water as well.
Not all kids are
introduced to the water at an early age, which puts them at a disadvantage.
They are already afraid of water, which certainly doesn't encourage them to want
to play in it. No matter what your child's fear level is though, you need to
get them into swim classes, learning to love—and also respect —the
Summer is not the first time your children should be
introduced to the water. You can start in the tub by getting your baby used to
a little water on their face at bath time, so it isn't such a shock. Before your
kids head to school, try to get them into a baby and toddler swim class.
best ones stress safety first, not skill. The most important thing your baby
and toddler need to know how to do is pop back up when their head goes under,
back-float and get themselves to the side. Once they are strong enough—and
toddlers are strong enough—they need to know how to climb out of the side of a
pool (hands, elbow, elbow, knee, knee). By the time my boys were three they would
haul themselves out of a pool. They did not have perfect freestyles, but they
could back-float. They could do enough to save themselves for a few minutes
while an older kid or adult got to them.
Having this knowledge has made me much
less paranoid when we are at my parents' pool or the lake. The ocean is a
different story. When any sort of current is involved, my kids have life vests
on even if I am holding them in the water.
Signs of drowning
The most important reason parents need to get their kids into
swim classes to learn proper swimming and saving techniques is because so many
of us don't actually know the signs of drowning. Thanks to Hollywood, we think
it is a dramatic event when, in actuality, it is a silent killer that too few
notice until it is too late.
"Children playing in
the water make noise. When they get quiet, you need to get to them and find out
why," says Vittone. Now that you know why your kids need to take swim classes,
here is how you can get your reluctant swimmer in the water:
1. Peer pressure Your
child's friends and peers are your best ally, especially if they are over the
age of 4. They want to do what their friends are doing, and they don't want
to look like wimps in front of them. If they have friends in the class, they are
more likely to push each other to excel or at least get in the water. This is
when peer pressure is a godsend for parents. When they are teens, not so much.
2. Great swim programs
Research swim programs carefully. What is their philosophy when it comes to
teaching kids to swim? Are they doing it just so the kids have fun or are they
teaching through games so a child can successfully make it out of the pool?
For babies and toddlers, it is more important to learn through play to
respect the water and wait to be asked to come in with Mom and Dad than it is
for them to be brave enough to jump off the diving board. For older kids, you
want to make sure you have them in a program that is actually teaching them the
strokes. Doggy paddling is all well and good, but you become more tired with
this sort of swimming. Specific strokes were developed because they are more
efficient and can get you from point A to point B more quickly.
3. Cool teachers
Your child's teacher in school makes all the difference, and so does a teacher
at swim class. If the teacher is gruff and yelling at the kids, you need to
pull your child out immediately. A mean teacher can take the joy of swimming
away from your child. Stick with teachers who understand that kids have a very
short attention spans—they all can't sit quietly on the pool edge waiting for their turn. Teachers need to understand that the toddler who loves the water may
jump in when the teacher's back is turned. You also want someone who knows how
to focus their class to children's specific needs. They need to be able to
adjust teaching to the child who is ahead of the class so they don't get
bored, while also helping the child who is scared of water and just wants Mommy.
4. Letting go
best thing you can do for your child is to give her space. If you have
picked a great program you will know immediately by how the teacher interacts
with your kid. It is the teacher's job to get your child into the pool, not
yours. Unless your child is beyond hysterics, do not co-teach from the side of
the pool. This does not help anyone. It confuses your child and makes him think the teacher is not in charge.
You may need to go to the other side of the
pool so your child doesn't see you. Bring your iPhone or a book to keep
yourself occupied and don't hover. Anxious parents make for anxious kids.
Swim instructors have been trained to get kids into the water. This is what
they do. Your child is not the first kid they have met who is afraid of the
water. Let them do their jobs. You are paying them after all.