More than a sport: What to do when your child resists swim lessons

Sep 07, 2020
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Most parents know this dilemma. You sign your child up for a new activity, commit to (and pay for!) weeks of practices or lessons, only to have them throw fits every time you even mention this new activity aloud.

It is a completely personal and unique decision whether to allow your child to “opt out” of their new activity or require them to honor their commitment to finish their season. Of course, there are many factors that go into these decisions. Is this just something new and scary the child will overcome? Will making a friend at the activity help her enjoy it more? How old is the child, and will the practice of honoring her commitment even click with her as a meaningful lesson? Can you, as the parent, get out of your financial commitment? Because no one wants to pay for something they aren’t going to attend.

For swimming lessons, though, it’s an entirely different story. Swimming lessons aren’t another after-school activity or sport. Swimming lessons are an essential life skill. Drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death for children ages 1-4. For every child who dies from drowning, another five receive emergency care for non-fatal submersion injuries. Especially in South Louisiana, where water can be found around almost every corner in either natural or manmade bodies, we know learning to swim is a vital life skill for our children. So what do you do when your swimmer is unmotivated by or shows strong opposition to attending their swimming lessons?

First, talk to your swimmer

If she is old enough to tell you why they are scared or nervous, have an open conversation with her about these reservations and how she can work to overcome them. There’s really nothing too silly or ridiculous when it comes to fears concerning water. Her concerns, even if you think they are unfounded, are still real barriers for their learning process. If she isn’t old enough or just doesn’t know why she’s scared, then that’s okay, too. Your child will need your support and guidance to conquer their fears, known or unknown!

If she isn’t old enough to express her fears, or just don’t know why she feels anxious (and even if she knows why she’s nervous), the best thing you can do as a parent is ENCOURAGE, ENCOURAGE, ENCOURAGE! Even if she has screamed her head off the entire lesson, give over-the-top praise when she comes out of the pool. “I’m so proud of your effort!” “I loved watching you put your face in the water!” “You were so brave when you tried to float to your instructor on your own!” True and honest encouragement can build even the most apprehensive swimmer’s confidence faster than anything else.

Don't give up

And lastly, do not give up on your child or swimming lessons! Commit to giving your child the opportunity to do hard things, to accomplish something she may have initially thought she could not do. When children are given the opportunity to overcome adversity they build their self-esteem and confidence, becoming more resilient in the process. Remember, swimming isn’t just your regular sport or activity. It is a skill that could save your child’s life!

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