Getting My Reluctant Child in the Water


getting a reluctant child in the water

Growing up in the south, swimming was second nature. I joined a swim team, and looked forward to pretending I was a mini Olympian for three months every Summer. When I had kids, I couldn’t wait to spend the Summers swimming with them. Pool games, races, lazy beach days, we were going to be a little aqua family for the three blissful months of Summer in New Hampshire. However, what I want for my kids, and what they are comfortable with, are two totally different things. Whether you’re teaching a kid how to ride a two-wheeler, it can take time. Learn how i’m getting my reluctant child in the water.

Here are 3 tips from this mom and former swim instructor help a reluctant child get comfortable in the water:

1. Show your reluctant swimmer that the water is not a scary place to be

Our kids look up to us, most of them think we’re invincible from time to time. It sounds so simple, but the tell, show, do model is tried and true for a reason. My daughter, the most reluctant swimmer in our house, is terrified of not being able to touch the bottom. If she feels like she is going too deep, she panics and grasps at anything that seems like it will hold her up, my other child included. It’s so important to take the time to give them the right tools to be successful. Having a parent or certified swim instructor and approved flotation device are all crucial to building a healthy relationship with water. By taking the time to build trust and a healthy amount of respect between your child and the water, you’re setting them up for success. 

2. Don’t push them further than they are ready to go

I remember my dad telling me that he learned how to swim when his dad tossed him in their pool one day and said swim to the side. In fact, i’m sure many of us have similar stories from either ourselves or our parents. While the sink or swim method may have been common 50 year ago, it does not work for kids reluctant to get in the water. If my child is comfortable just sitting on the steps, I let them lead their level of readiness while giving them a gentle nudge. If I tell them what we’re going to work on next, they are able to mentally prepare and anticipate what is coming next. Usually, this leads to a few minutes of contemplating, followed by an “okay mom, i’m ready to try it.” This puts them in the drivers seat mentally. 

3. Stick to the basics

Almost all the time, basics are best. You’re not teaching your child how to win a race, but rather how to get comfortable being in water. After you’ve built their trust and confidence in the water, you’re ready to move on and show them how to float. Floating creates a sense of calm and that calm carries so much weight when learning how to put the mechanics of swimming together. I’ve found in the several years that I taught swim lessons, the calmer the child, the greater the success. Once they learn that they are buoyant, the idea of moving their legs and arms calmly is a lot less scary. 

Learning to love being in water doesn’t come naturally for every child.

If they aren’t ready to jump into a big pool, kid pools are great for getting them acclimated to the idea of being in water. It’s larger than a bath, but less intimidating than a 25 meter pool. Basic survival swimming skills are so important for every person to know, especially living on the Seacoast. The CDC recommends learning basic swimming and water safety skills as early as possible. The Seacoast has so many options for water introduction, including several pools around the area, as well as the beach. I know that this Summer, you’ll find us anywhere my daughter feels comfortable jumping right in. 

Seacoast Area Pools:

  • Portsmouth: 

Peirce Island Outdoor Pool

Portsmouth Indoor Pool

  • Dover:

Dover Indoor Pool

Jenny Thompson Outdoor Pool

  • Exeter: 

Daniel Healy Memorial Pool

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Hello! I'm Holly. I spent half of my life in North Carolina, where I developed a love of food and college basketball simultaneously while studying for a modern east asian history final at UNCC. Since moving to the seacoast, I'd say i've had a series of rather fortunate events. I am a wife to an Air Force veteran, a mom of two kids and a super happy golden retriever. In 2018, I quit a career trajectory that did not fill my bucket to be a stay at home mom. The things that do fill my bucket include cooking, random Spice Girl sing alongs with my kids in the car, and bringing our house out of the 80's through several both successful and unsuccessful DIY projects. You'll find me on the field, coaching my kids various rec sports, as well as helping them blaze their own trail in the scouting world. My world right now is family centered, and it's absolutely perfect for me.


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