Sometimes on this tiny island, we can forget how natural and strong the instinct to fear the water is.
Here are three tips on how to help your child overcome a fear or resistance to water (or anything else really!).
Grow the Good.
Create an environment of small successes. Focus on what is going well, ignore the rest. Search for things to praise your child for surrounding the water. Even the smallest step is cause for great celebration. Confidence is the keystone.
Kids respond very well to mantras. They don’t have all the mental blocks that adults do, they don’t have stories about who they are and what they can do. When your child faces a difficult or scary situation, it works very well to:
1) Identify the feeling: “This is a very scary thing”. This is an important part of the process, to acknowledging and normalizing how they feel is the first step in overcoming that fear.
2) Give them a short mantra to tell their brain. One of my favorites is: “I am safe, I am strong”. The most important part of this mantra is that they say it with conviction and confidence, even if they don’t feel it at first.
I like to remind kids that they are the ones in charge of their mind. They get to tell it how to behave. Even just hearing the mantra from you will help them begin to believe it.
Swim and water safety are very much about mindset and playfulness. When the fear takes over, it becomes very dangerous to swim. The best defense against this fear is to play. Find games, laugh, encourage and be silly. Kids learn how to respond to situations, by watching the people around them. If they have an example of play in the water, then they learn (or relearn) to also play in the water.
Jenn Gladwin is the founder of Get Glad Maui, a fitness company dedicated to helping people find the Glad Life. She also runs Kelea Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to Nurturing, Inspiring and Empowering Women through Water Sports. GetGladMaui.com