What to Do if Your Child Cries at Her First Swim Lesson (or Two)

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Many children who come for lessons at Goldfish Swim School cry when they first start lessons. Moms and dad, your family is not the only one. Knowing you aren’t alone won’t make it any less stressful, but we hope knowing it is common can help ease your mind.

And we hope learning some of the reasons behind the tears – and how our instructors are trained to work with children – helps as well.

Why is My Child Crying?

Your child could be dealing with separation anxiety, which is a natural part of growing up (especially if you’re usually with your child around-the-clock. It could also be that your child is in unfamiliar surroundings and meeting a bunch of new faces in the pool. Or, sometimes, it could be because having water in the ears is a very different kind of sensation that takes some getting used to.

Sometimes, however, it’s a little more than that. If your child has special needs, including Down syndrome, autism, sensory issues, ADHD, issues with motor skills or other concerns, there may be more at play to the crying. But rest assured, Goldfish Swim School helps kids with special needs learn to swim, too. Just talk to us and we can work with you to develop a successful plan.

Although each child progresses at a different pace, generally the tears stop around the 4th lesson after trust is built with the instructor. There are some things you can do to help your child along the way, though!

What Can I Do?

You can help ease your little one’s anxiety in the following ways:

  • Stay in the viewing area. You want to be around your little swimmer to reassure her, we know — but actually, she’ll likely get acclimated more easily with you back with the other parents. Why? Our Goldfish Swim School instructors use integrity, compassion and trust to make your child feel safe and comfortable in the water, but we can’t compete with mom and dad when it comes to that instant security! When your little one sees that you trust us with her, she’ll realize she can trust us, too. Plus, when you’re not right next to her, she’ll be able to stop thinking about you and focus on how much fun she can have in the water!
  • Offer continued support and encouragement. This may seem contradictory to staying in the viewing area, but you can indeed encourage your little one while not poolside. This could be offering an enthusiastic thumbs-up or wave whenever your little one turns around to look at you, or taking the opportunity to congratulate her on the extraordinary results she’s having with a celebratory dinner — and always give lots and lots of praise on the way home.
  • Reinforce desired behaviors. We celebrate everything at Goldfish Swim School — from getting in the water, not crying, and learning swim skills — and that means you can reinforce all those accomplishments, too! Help your child have a GOLDEN experience during swimming lessons by focusing on the positive things you see, and remind her before each lesson about the great things she did before so she can do them again.
  • Practice skills at home. You can practice those new skills at your own pool if you have one, try a Family Swim at Goldfish Swim School, or even practice swim skills at home in the bathtub! The more comfortable your child gets in and around water of any kind, the more she will be excited to get in the big pool for lessons!

What NOT to Do

There are things to make sure you DON’T do, though:

  • Don’t offer bribes. It may sound like a good idea, but it’s actually counter-intuitive! In just a short time, your child will be enjoying every lesson and become excited to jump in the pool. Part of our WOW! customer service is being able to help your child by playing games and using songs to have fun in the pool — which will be a good enough “bribe” for your child!
  • Don’t discontinue lessons altogether. Swimming is an important lifelong skill that all kids should have. Stopping lessons showsyour child that it isn’t important.
  • Don’t allow your anxiety to show through. It’s rough to see your baby upset. We get it. But, it’s amazing how much little ones pick up from those around them. If you seem anxious to let your new swimmer into the pool, she’ll feel that and react to it. It’s kind of like when she was a newborn — if you were calm, it was much easier to calm her, right? So relax and know you’re doing a great thing for her by teaching her to swim.

Just Keep Swimming

Knowing how to swim provides your child with many benefits. In addition to those swim skills, we offer classes for kids ages 4 months to 12 years! Interested? Find a Goldfish Swim School location near you and sign up your little one for swim lessons today!

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