A Toddler’s Fear of Water: Gentle Perseverance
When we first arrived in Mexico, we thought our young lad would be all about the water. Having experienced his fear of the water last summer season back home at our local beach, we were active in helping him overcome those fears, gently, without force. Our patience and calm nature seemed to work and by the end of the summer Wyndham was frolicking about in the waves without a care in the world.
Which is why we thought that this summer he’d be ready to attempt learning some swimming with us, use a paddle-board, maybe some head under water action. We especially thought he’d be stoked with all of the pools and miles of beach we are surrounded with here in Mexico.
First rule of parenting that we keep learning over and over again?
Never think you have it all figured out, or that you have a routine. Because little humans are just like us big ones who have the right to change our minds about what we fancy, when we want to sleep and eat, etc.
No matter how much we may think he’d have a splendid time splashing about in the pool with us, his sister, his cousin, other family and friends – it was important for us to remember that we can’t push our own expectations onto our little guy. While there may be a large number of little ones who joyously take to the water, there are also a bunch of babies and toddlers who would rather be doing anything else. Anything. Which is completely normal.
My Top 10 Ways To Gently Help a Toddler Overcome Their Fear of the Water…
- Always remember that you child’s fears are completely reasonable, normal and should be respected.
- BUILD TRUST:
Don’t break it. Children, especially little ones – develop both their fears and inhibitions based on previous experiences they’ve had with their parents. If a child feels that trust has been broken, the damage can be so much more difficult to rebuild than the patience it would take to take it slow. In other words, the old school mantra of, just put some water wings on them and toss ’em in! Hardy har har! Not so much. (I know grown adults who have a fear of the water because of experiences like this. Or ones who had to work extra hard at overcoming their very large fear, well into their childhood and teen years).
This goes hand in hand with #2. Forcing a child into the water will only make things worse. They will rebel and dig their heels in. (Or worse: completely melt-down), similar to how you might if being forced to do something that freaked you out and didn’t like.
- GENTLE & CALM:
Create a vibe of no worries mon! Lounge on the edge, dangling your legs in the water, with your little one wrapped in your arms and talk about how cooling the water is. Sing songs about the water. Change the subject to something else, or just hang-out pool-side without trying to coax them in, not even once. Sometimes just taking in other kids having a blast in the water; on their own terms, is all the push they need to try going in again for themselves.
- GOOF IT UP:
Let your little lounge and take in your silly behaviour in the pool. Splash at each-other, blow bubbles, squirt each-other with toys.
Bring pouring cups and squirters, a big beach ball and floating devices to the pool with you. Water toys are a fun and interactive way to help a child forget about being scared and just want to have fun.
- Start with shallow wading pools. The resort we are staying in has several large pools with shallow areas, which we thought would be okay for Wyndham. Not so much. He did so much better in the kiddie pool that was nothing but shallow. After a few days he was jumping in and playing for hours. He was very interested in the songs we sang with him, and watching us do the front stroke, back stroke and the butterfly, all of which he would try with us.
- Play games in the water, centered around learning how to float, kick, paddle, etc. All the basic swim holds and styles.
- If your child (like ours), won’t set foot in anything than a wading pool – have no worries. That may be it for them for the season. It may take a couple or even a few years of gentle, patient guidance; coupled with swimming lessons before they are ready for a bigger pool.
Avoid pressure. Be prepared. (Lots of sunblock, swim diapers, water, snacks, shade and toys). Be proud of your little, show your pride and boost them up.
This post is sponsored by Disney Baby. I’ll be joining the Disney Baby blogging team next month, and look forward to sharing these kinds of stories (projects/ideas/etc) with you over there! Stay tuned for more details!