Every week I see the same little boy, around 4, wailing through his swim lesson. Always the same routine - he enters the pool area and starts crying. He cries for 30 minutes straight, quite pathetically, and stops as soon as the towel is wrapped around him and he’s walking calmly into the locker room.
Why? And if this sounds like your little cherub what should you do about it?
It’s sometimes challenging to know what is going on in their minds. Before my kids started preschool I read that the number one fear of school was the bathroom. Where was the bathroom? Did they have to ask first? What if they needed help? Could they use the bathroom at school? I was stunned - I never would have thought to address that. It was a good reminder that kid’s brains function differently than an adult’s.
Add in the fact that, though we resist mightily, we see our kids as a reflection of ourselves. It’s hard not to feel at least a twinge in your gut when you have the only child who won’t go down the slide, or lies by the goal on the soccer field oblivious to the hard-fought game around him, or picks his nose, or....or.....or....
So, if you have a ‘water crier’ or one who refuses to put his head under or absolutely will not do the hokey-pokey in parent-and-me swim class, try looking at the situation from their perspective. Do they feel they have your positive, and engaged, attention or are you escaping behind your newspaper or e-mail? Do they like their instructor? Did you introduce the instructor and chat for a few minutes about your child and your expectations or just send them off together? Has your child has a bad experience in the water or in some other class? Are there other big changes going on in their lives?
If all else fails, try simply asking why he/she cries. The answer may surprise you, and it may be something small that can be easily fixed (but I wanted an Ariel bathing suit!) Of course your child may have a fear that can’t be easily addressed - which means maybe it’s time to suspend the experience while you work in a few fun days in the water. Just the two of you, with no pressure and nothing ‘scary’.
Stick with it please - swimming is a valuable life-skill and a darned good time, once they’re ready.