Research has shown that the children of parents who can’t or don’t swim will not get learn swim or learn to swim well during their life. This in turn leads to them growing up to be adults without strong swimming abilities. This can lead to an anxiety that stands in the way of learning to swim. This fear must be dealt with before successful swimming lessons can take place.
Knowing what causes the fear of water is just as important as the steps taken to combat it. For some the fear may stream just from not knowing how to swim, but others may have more traumatic reasons. Being washed down a river by a strong current or being pulled under water because of a rip tide can both lead to a fear of water. Another common reason for this fear is near drowning experiences due to horse play or cramps. This fear will can cause people to panic easily even in just a few feet of water. Suddenly being in over their head can also trigger panic attacks.
Teaching the Fearful
1) Most students are told that there is nothing to be afraid of in the water, but this reassurance doesn’t always work. The fear is there. For students afraid of the water it is a good idea to start the swimming lesson out of the pool. This shows the student that the teacher is willing to help them feel safe before they go into the water.
2) Teachers should explain the students about water. Show students how the human body is buoyant and let them know what happens and how it feels when water gets into the ears, nose and eyes. This helps prepare the students for the sensations that may cause panic to start setting in.
3) Students who are scared of the water will often respond well to relaxation techniques. Practice calm even breathing and visualization before going into the water so that the student can easily use these methods should they begin to panic.
4) Set a clear goal and work to make progress towards that goal. Overcoming fear takes time and means dealing with emotions that the students aren’t comfortable with, but it can be done with patience and care.
5) For younger students consider having parent/child classes where the parents can learn the basics of swimming alongside their child. This can help reassure the child that they are safe in the water.
6) Offer private lessons to students that are uncomfortable facing their fear in front of groups. Parents who don’t want to seem unable to do something in front of their child may also be interested in private lessons. This will help them cope with their own fears and enable them to help their child.
Learning to swim while overcoming a fear of water isn’t easy, but it can be done. Being able to swim can expand a person’s horizons and potentially save their life one day. It’s because of this that swimming instructors should approach teaching with an air of understanding and confidence.