At the beach, he looks at the water with fearful eyes and refuses to venture into it! To get rid of this fear of water, should we dive head first into the initiation to water?
Should we favor the gentle way?
Experts recommend swimming lessons for young children, just as much as the progressive method. But no, we will not drop baby in the water thinking that his "survival reflex" will bring him to the surface!
Because this is rather the kind of initiative likely to create and imprint the fear of water in young children, says Raynald Hawkins, director General of the Lifesaving Society. “Some children have experienced a situation that led them to be afraid of water. Others will have heard too many comments about the dangers of water, which will have made them fearful.”
There aren't any more children afraid of water than before, but there are more of them among boys than among girls. The children of immigrants whose culture does not favor swimming are often less comfortable in the water than those accustomed to the pool or the sea, notes Mr. Hawkins.
An Aquatic Skills Survey Pilot Projectelementary school children revealed that 65% of them must wear a flotation device to achieve certain performances in the water, such as moving about fifty meters.
These results demonstrate, once again, that children's aquatic education is still to be done, believes Mr. Hawkins, who subscribes to the theory that offering swimming lessonsto her child, “it's a question of survival. The important thing is to put the child in contact with water from an early age,” he adds.
When and how to start?
From an early age: but how old? Studies about the ideal time to begin initiation contradict each other, but it is clear that the longer you delay, the more fearful the child will be. Most municipalities in Quebec offer swimming lessons, with different approaches and techniques, but all have in common that they go very gradually and respect the rhythm of the child.
Fortunately, most toddlers enjoy swimming. In fact, baby's behavior in the bath will be a reliable indicator of his reaction to water. If he reacts badly when you pour water on his head or if, on the contrary, he looks happy as a fish in water every time you put him in the bath water, he will have probably the same behavior in a swimming pool!
Initiate your child yourself
You are a big fish in the water yourself and want to take charge of the aquatic training of yourchild ? Rule number one, underlines Raynald Hawkins: make him understand that water is with mom and dad and never alone. "He must assimilate the dimension of proximity for security", he specifies.The parent should then opt for the playful approach, whether at the beach or in the family pool. We can thus more easily teach him the basic rules, while teaching him, for example, to do the star, on his back or stomach, or to control his breathing in the water. “As long as the child has fun and laughs, we are winners! adds Johane Lafleur, Senior Coordinator, Injury Prevention at the
Since our children are real little detectors of emotions, the adult chosen to teach the child or to accompany him to his swimming lessons should not feel uncomfortable in the water. Ms. Lafleur cites the example of a two-year-old toddler whose mother had taken over from the father for the accompaniment to his swimming lessons; after a few sessions, the child refused to do certain exercises that he was used to performing brilliantly. Result: he regressed.
Apart from the judicious choice of tutor, homeschooling should not skip any steps, emphasizes Ms. Lafleur. Long before the crawl and the butterfly, you have to pass on the basic elements… like learning to close your mouth in the water! "It may sound ridiculous to say that, but if you don't want him to swallow water… There is also a way to enter the water, usingthe scale… it is the base. After that, we show him the lying positions, on his back, on his stomach and we teach him to move, back and forth,” she explains.
The child will then learn to move independently and as our little angels have not yet completed the development of the coordination of their limbs before eight years, it is preferable to teach him swimming techniques (crawl, butterfly…) after this age, says Ms. Lafleur.
The use of flotation aids is also very relevant, according to Raynald Hawkins. For example, we can make him wear a belt from which we remove the weights one by one, as the child masters his buoyancy.
Knowing how to swim can ensure our survival and could even save someone else's life one day, but swimming and bathing also have incomparable relaxation properties, says Hawkins. "Yes, it improves physical fitness, but studies have shown that swimming can help children who have disabilities, physical or mental."
It is for this reason that the Lifesaving Society is currently trying to convince the Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sports to implement its Swim to Survive program, an introductory swimming course for high school students.
Until then, families can at least count on the approximately 2,000 swimming spots spread across all regions of Quebec to prevent or overcome fearwater from their children and turn them into happy little dolphins…