At Aquatots Swimming we aim to have our children comfortably and confidently swimming by the time they reach school age, teaching babies from as young as 8 weeks old means we need each child to have a parent or guardian in the water with them. How many children are missing out because their parent(s) have had a bad experience with water at some point in their lives?
How many of us were introduced to water too late or by being told to “jump in and get on with it”? When you have a fear of water then the last thing you may think of doing is taking your baby swimming or you may be similar to one of the parents like the three featured in this blog, they have shared their stories of overcoming a negative relationship with water to start their child swimming and to provide them with the opportunity for them to have positive experiences in water.
Beckie had a terrible fear of the water from the age of 15 when she was trapped underneath the water and nearly drowned at a water park, her fear continued to develop and it prevented her from getting back into the water. When she had her first child she learned about Aquatots and wanted to give her son an important life-skill and an appreciation of the water despite her dislike, this meant Beckie would need to overcome her own fear first!
It was a tough first term for Beckie and she admits to becoming upset at even the thought of putting her head beneath the surface. Our teachers were understanding and patient and never pressured Beckie to do anything which she wasn’t comfortable with or ready for, this didn’t mean her son missed out as our teacher would undertake the underwater exercises instead of Beckie so that her baby did not miss out and could progress at his own pace, all Beckie needed to do during the lessons was concentrate on getting in and then staying in the pool.
With the constant support of our teachers, Beckie was able to start overcoming her crippling fear and although she admits she is still unable to swim she knows that her dislike of water has not hindered her children’s relationship with it and now both her sons are progressing wonderfully on our Aquatots programme.
Steph grew up in a single parent household with her mum and brother. Her mother could not swim and was scared to take her children to a pool due to not feeling confident in the water. Steph had obligatory swimming lessons during primary school and secondary school where her confidence was even further diminished by the expectations of the teachers, she hated going beneath the surface and never enjoyed being in the water which unfortunately continued into adulthood.
While on family holidays Steph would watch her husband jump in, dive and splash around and she knew that’s what she wanted for her children, not the absolute fear that she had and so they decided to join Aquatots when their firstborn was just six months old as our progressive programme appealed to them, Steph’s husband swam with their son every week, and Steph watched from the side seeing them both enjoy the experience and learn so much together.
Ten months later along came a daughter and Steph decided that she would be the one to swim with her so that she could enjoy the same bonding experience that her husband and son had shared – Steph was very apprehensive but wanted to give it a go! From the start Steph was supported by our teachers and was never made to feel pressured to go underwater, eventually during one session, she decided that if her daughter could submerge then so could she and it wasn’t as bad as she feared! Steph has now gained the confidence to push off the wall underwater and regularly practises subsurface exercises with her daughter.
Isobel had no relationship with water. As a child, her Mum hated water so there were no weekend or holiday trips to the pool and she can only recollect going to the seaside once as a child. Isobel also learned to swim during mandatory primary school swimming lessons where she hardly progressed and had no water confidence. Her secondary school had an outdoor pool with resident ducks that needed chasing off before the lesson even started! As you can imagine this did nothing but add to her lack of enthusiasm for the water, she literally hated swimming and associated it with feeling miserable.
On meeting her husband she was shocked to find out he also couldn’t swim and so, again, there was no incentive to go near water which meant passing up opportunities such as snorkelling in idyllic holiday destinations such as Mauritius.
When Isobel had her first baby, she looked at all the different things they could do together and after reading up on the ‘bradycardic reflex’ (see explanation below) decided to start swimming with Aquatots as we practise submersion techniques from a young age. She also hoped that her son would develop a relationship with water that she never had as well as learning valuable life-saving skills should he ever need them.
Two years on and Isobel can see how her decision and perseverance has paid off as her son actively enjoys swimming and has gained great water confidence. Her daughter has been swimming for over six months now and is progressing at a fantastic rate.
We thank the three Aquatots parents that have allowed us to share their positive stories and know that they are not our only parents that have overcome a fear so that their children can benefit from the physical and physiological advantages of early years swimming.
*The bradycardic reflex is what makes babies hold their breath and open their eyes when submerged in water, this same reaction can also be triggered by gently blowing in a baby’s face, this response begins to diminish at about 6 months old.