4-Year-old Terrified of pool.....what Can We Do ????

Updated on June 26, 2011
D.C. asks from Plano, TX
11 answers

We do have a pool at home and last year our youngest was super happy to go in and learn how to swim, even without the floaties.

A couple of months ago he was in the tub with his brother (10) and he went under for a second (no more because I was sitting right by them)....

Ever since then he is scared to take a bath at first, saying "You won't let me go under, right ?!?!".....but then he will relax....

We just were in the pool with him again....he only wanted to stay in the hot tub.....when I took him into the big pool and daddy held him (with floaties on) he cried hysterically and shook all over.....until we took him out.....

I am sooooo sad....

What can we do so he'll like the pool again ????

Any experiences in this matter ????

Please help, we all love swimming and normally spend all summer in the pool !!!!!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'd let him get comfortable in a small pool first. O. he can sit an, play in and splash around in. Then take it very slowly....good luck!

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answers from Seattle on

Whatever you do, don't force him. Let him sit in a lawn chair next to the pool while the rest of you swim and enjoy yourselves. Maybe he'll soon sit on the edge of the pool with his feet in and splash water on you as you swim past. Then maybe he'll sit on the steps and eventually join you again as his fear fades.

I would also get rid of those floaties. Get a life-vest for him instead of that makes you (and him) feel safer, but don't count on those plastic inflatable arm-bands. When I was a child, my neighbor (age 5 or 6) took them off when she went inside for a minute. She came running back out, headed for the pool and jumped in - and went straight to the bottom. Dad leapt in after her and pulled her up. I remember one of mine popping off my arm in the pool after I'd gotten lathered up with sunscreen.

As the weather gets hotter and you guys spend more and more time in the pool, I'll bet he'll join you of his own accord.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Just give him time...or bribe him?

That is what i had to do to get my son (when he was 4) to jump off the diving board...i bribed him with his own xbox :) worked for us...he is no longer afraid and is a swimming, jumping and diving fool, now at 5!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Don't force him. He has to be ready at his own pace. That may mean he inches toward the pool at a snail's pace and dips his fingers in for a while. He may end up with his feet in the pool and be perfectly happy. You can't rush him, force him, or bribe him. If you do it before he's really ready it will backfire. It might take all summer or it might take a couple of years. Or he might surprise you and be back in within a couple of weeks. The only person this is really affecting is him, and if he's happy out of the pool, then let him be happy.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I tell mine I'll take her out to lunch after her swim lesson if she if brave and happy. Before I gave into bribery I had to leave the premmises because she cried for me the whole lesson. At aunites pool she acts terrified, but if offered candy instantly acts happy and works with me in the water. If nothing else it tells me the fear is not a deep seated as she puts on.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

The first thing kids are taught at swim lessons at our local pool is to sit on the steps and blow bubbles by putting their mouths in then water. Are there pools or ponds nearby where you can sign him up for a toddler lesson? Professionals know what they are doing, and being in hip deep water with other kids makes it more fun.

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answers from San Diego on

Be very aware of your reactions and don't make a big deal. Encourage but don't force. You can have conversations about being safe, and doing things even when you're scared (put on your brave face).

If he was willing to go in the hot tub, then that's really good (as long as it's not TOO hot). You can just hang out in there and play! If he gets his face wet (willingly or accidentally), praise him for it. Water toys (boats/duckies/...) could be bribes too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Can you show him (in the bathtub) how much fun it is to blow bubbles under water? He doesn't have to put his whole head under, just start by getting his face closer.

That might help him realize it is ok to be in the water again.


answers from Redding on

I would guess it was a hysterical moment in the tub when he inhaled a little water? So now he's traumatized.
Mine were swimming before age 1, if they inhaled and choked I never made a big deal of it, didnt get all scared and stuff, so they didnt either. It's scary enough on its own but after they choke it out it's best to not bring it up or act like it was a life and death experience. Yeah, I hear about the dry drowning thing now and then but that's just another one of the media scare tactics that make mom's get all crazy when their kids swallow a little water. We've all been there done that, it's not fun but it's part of swimming. You still do it occasionally just drinking something, right?
I'd really talk to your 4 yr old, and explain how we cant breathe water in like fish do and thats why its important to blow bubbles in the water so the water doesnt go in. Get him started by showing him how to put his mouth under water and blowing bubbles and remind him that he's not a fish and not to suck water in. He's 4, he'll listen and learn if you don't pressure him. Let him sit pool side while everyone else is having fun in the pool, his own curiosity and the longing to play in the water will come before summer is over.



answers from Dallas on

Don't do anything. My daughter was scared of getting her face wet or putting it in the water (pool or bath tub). We went swimming a lot in the summer and she just played in the shallow water. The summer she was 5 she decided that if her friends little sister could put her face in the water, so could she. She worked at it gradually and by the end of the summer she was swimming like a fish (underwater), and begging to jump off the side into the deep water. If he like swimming before, he will like it again. Leave him alone and let him do his thing.


answers from Washington DC on

I recommend swimming lessons at another pool -- your local Y or swim club. I recommend leaving the pool when he has his lesson, too.

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