12 answers

Son Scared of Swimming Lessons

Hi Moms,

My 4-1/2 year old son started swim lessons 3 weeks ago. He goes on Sundays at our community center and there are 8 kids in his class and 2 instructors. The first 2 lessons he did great because he was in the very shallow end of the pool. Well, yesterday, they moved into the 4 ft end of the pool so that the kids can learn to float. My son was so scared that he would not go in the pool. My hubby went in to try and help and I tried to encourage him as did the instructors, but nothing worked. I feel so bad for him because I know exactly what he is going through. I never learned to swim and by the time I reached high school and was taught by a fellow classmate, it was emotionally painful because I was the only kid in a class of 20 who had to stay at the 3 foot end. I don't want this to happen to him. I was successful with my daughter with her swimming, but she was fearless. My hubby thinks we should just pull him out of class--I say we should let him stay. I haven't spoken to the instructors, but they also have 7 other kids to teach, so I'm at a loss here as to what to do. My hubby is going to be taking him this week to do a one-on-one with him to try in break this fear. I really don't know what to do. Should I let him stay in the class? Should I pull him out and sign him up for one-on-one private lessons with a certified instructor? Please help. Thank you in advance.

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Hello M.,
I also had an experience with my son similar to this. He was around this same age and was deathly afraid of the big pool. I ended up not sending him back after the instructors finally convinced him to get on the diving board and jump in promising him they would catch him. Well guess what, they didn't. So even though he was wearing a life jacket he still went under water and was terrified. I too was always afraid of the water so I felt really bad for him. What worked for both him and me was to be able to go at my own pace. We have an above ground pool and every year he got a little bit braver and taught himself how to swim. I never even tried swimming lessons with my daughter and she is doing just fine also. We always used water wings so that they learned how to keep themselves afloat and I think that helped a lot. I am the kind of parent that does not believe in letting my children quit anything they have joined but this is something I would make an exception for.
I hope I helped.

More Answers

There are many different answers for what to do with your child. Being a pool professional for over 19 years (I am the assistant supervisor for Fraser High School's swim program), I could be here all day asking questions and finding out the best answers as to what could have freaked him out. However, remember that once your child realizes that he is separate from you (aka terrible twos and others) some children who do not want to swim will put up a fight and yell and scream. Simply because they can. I have seen kids as old as 10 do it. There are so many different things you can do and so many different routes to take depending on what is going on with your child. You need to ask the instructors what happened and they should be able to narrow the issue down to a couple of reasons. The staff should get the student to do what he needs to do without being horrified. And don't forget, most swim instructors who have been doing this for years (or are moms themselves like I am) can tell the difference between a child who is truly terrified and a child who is just stubborn. If they can't tell you, you need to do some searching to find someone who can. Anyone who has done this for a number of years should be able to correct the probIem even if they are not the head teacher for your child, all you need to do is ask. I hope the best for you in your quest to get to the bottom of this dilemma.
Also, doing some one on one with your child could go either way, depending on what the underlying issue is. I can only recommend you try to ask the instructors what they feel is the best way to handle the situation and hopefully they can help you guide him in the right direction, whether it would be to stay in the class he's in or move into private lessons. However, I would NOT let him quit. That just sets the stage for him to quit whatever he wants to whether or not he is frustrated or simply can't do it. He needs to stick it out, but the staff needs to work with you on it and vice versa or you won't get anywhere.
Good Luck!

I would talk to the instructors and ask them. I took my daughter to a swim school and they actually don't want parents to come to the rescue of the kids. The instructors are trained specifically to work with children and help them overcome their fears of the water AND teach them survival swim skills. As a parent, it is really hard to watch your kid be scared and not help comfort them, but I can tell you that this technique worked! My daughter only had one or two episodes of being really scared (she never really cried in the class), but most of the other kids did go through it. They would cry and scream and it was hard to watch (my daughter was in a class with my friend's kids), but each and every one of them learned to swim and to float. They all passed swim tests in which they were tossed into the deep end of the pool, fully clothed, and were able to swim and turn over to float until they were able to reach the side. This is lifesaving stuff and I am so happy I let her learn when I did. She was 3 when she started and she knows how to swim now. It only took a couple of months and she was diving down to the bottom of the pool for rings and other toys. It was truly amazing to watch.

I will say that the year before, I had her in swimming lessons at the YMCA and they do not take this approach in their lessons. They only do what the kids are comfortable with. It's all about being "comfortable" in the water. I find this approach to be dangerous because I don't want my kid to be comfortable enough in the water to want to jump in when they don't know how to swim! My daughter didn't learn anything in her lessons at the YMCA, so I would just try to find out from your son's instructors what their approach is and how they are going to handle the situation if your son gets upset. Do they want you or hubby to come to the rescue or would they prefer to handle it themselves? What is the goal of the class and how are they planning on teaching your son to swim?

Personally, if you live anywhere near water or where it is warm for long periods of the year (I am from Florida and live in TX now), I would be sure your kid learns to swim. The drowning rates are so high in young kids and it's really scary. If it were me, I would leave him in, but only if you feel like these instructors can teach him what he needs to know. Otherwise, I would go with the private lessons. You will see results faster and he may respond better to the one on one attention. Good luck!

Updated

I would talk to the instructors and ask them. I took my daughter to a swim school and they actually don't want parents to come to the rescue of the kids. The instructors are trained specifically to work with children and help them overcome their fears of the water AND teach them survival swim skills. As a parent, it is really hard to watch your kid be scared and not help comfort them, but I can tell you that this technique worked! My daughter only had one or two episodes of being really scared (she never really cried in the class), but most of the other kids did go through it. They would cry and scream and it was hard to watch (my daughter was in a class with my friend's kids), but each and every one of them learned to swim and to float. They all passed swim tests in which they were tossed into the deep end of the pool, fully clothed, and were able to swim and turn over to float until they were able to reach the side. This is lifesaving stuff and I am so happy I let her learn when I did. She was 3 when she started and she knows how to swim now. It only took a couple of months and she was diving down to the bottom of the pool for rings and other toys. It was truly amazing to watch.

I will say that the year before, I had her in swimming lessons at the YMCA and they do not take this approach in their lessons. They only do what the kids are comfortable with. It's all about being "comfortable" in the water. I find this approach to be dangerous because I don't want my kid to be comfortable enough in the water to want to jump in when they don't know how to swim! My daughter didn't learn anything in her lessons at the YMCA, so I would just try to find out from your son's instructors what their approach is and how they are going to handle the situation if your son gets upset. Do they want you or hubby to come to the rescue or would they prefer to handle it themselves? What is the goal of the class and how are they planning on teaching your son to swim?

Personally, if you live anywhere near water or where it is warm for long periods of the year (I am from Florida and live in TX now), I would be sure your kid learns to swim. The drowning rates are so high in young kids and it's really scary. If it were me, I would leave him in, but only if you feel like these instructors can teach him what he needs to know. Otherwise, I would go with the private lessons. You will see results faster and he may respond better to the one on one attention. Good luck!

My son was the same way. I made him still go to the group classes and I backed off. The instructors are good at what they do. Just ask you're son to sit on the side. He doesn't have to get in but he does need to sit on the side with the other kids. Hopefully this will be enough for him to get in and learn with the teachers.
It didn't with my son. With classes being once a week, and teachers changing every time you sign them up for a new session, my son never learned to trust any one instructor. It takes him a long time to gain trust. We ended up finding someone that does it from their home. It was a group of 3-4 kids instead of 8-12 kids. She took her time to gain trust before taking them into the deep end and she even did floating in the shallow end so they weren't afraid of being in the deep in. With large groups instructors can't change the order as easily. So more individual lessons may be the way to go.

Hello M.,
I also had an experience with my son similar to this. He was around this same age and was deathly afraid of the big pool. I ended up not sending him back after the instructors finally convinced him to get on the diving board and jump in promising him they would catch him. Well guess what, they didn't. So even though he was wearing a life jacket he still went under water and was terrified. I too was always afraid of the water so I felt really bad for him. What worked for both him and me was to be able to go at my own pace. We have an above ground pool and every year he got a little bit braver and taught himself how to swim. I never even tried swimming lessons with my daughter and she is doing just fine also. We always used water wings so that they learned how to keep themselves afloat and I think that helped a lot. I am the kind of parent that does not believe in letting my children quit anything they have joined but this is something I would make an exception for.
I hope I helped.

My hubby took our son to the open swim one day a week. They would swim (for fun) on Friday nights and he had class on Saturday. He quickly lost all fear of the water.

Have him do one-on-one. I'm a firm believer if you really want your child to learn to swim (and not fear the water) that they need one-on-one. Group classes are good for a refresher for older kids

My second child was absolutely terrified of the water. He had flipped in a floaty when he was less than two, and that did him in. However, I kept trying lesson after lesson at different places each year. Finally, I found a place with a swim instructor with a lot of patience. He was six by then. You see we have a boat and a cottage near a river; he had to know how to swim. The other three kids were fearless and cooperative from age three for swim lessons. In this class, he finally trusted the instructor enough and jumped off the board as part of the class. She caught him. He did pass his swim test in high school in ninth grade with no problems. He is 28; does not really like water still, but does know how to swim and operates the boat proficiently. Keep trying each year. Encourage and have patience.

He's old enough where I would stick with it. How is he going to overcome his fear if you take him out? You might check with the instructors to see if they are okay with parents coming in to help or if they prefer to handle it themselves. I know where my kids take lessons they prefer not to have the parents coming in. The instructors are taught how to handle the fears kids can have around water.

Also, try taking him swimming outside of lessons just for fun. It takes the pressure off and he can learn to be more comfortable in the water and just have fun. This may put him more at ease when it comes to lessons.

1 / 3
Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.