Remember my daughter, Ruby's, first swimming lesson at USSA? Well, if you recall, it went swimmingly. So, we were excited for the second lesson. But, was Ruby all smiles and giggles this time? No. Actually, that word about sums it up. "No." That was all she would say to any request the swimming coach made. "Blow your bubbles, Ruby." "No!" "Turn over on your back, Ruby." "No!" Now, there's the child I'm used to at home.
So, this experience, needless to say, was disappointing. I ran into her swimming coach after the lesson and shared my frustration. She assured me that this phenomenon of the second nightmare lesson is very common. Children can sense things, as we all know. So, they know parents' expectations have been raised now and they have more to live up to. She even recommended that, after the first lesson, parents should not overwhelm their little ones with kudos. Kids do not like to disappoint their parents and often shut down rather than let their parents down. Swimming lessons are also just like any other learning experience. There will be gains and set-backs, a step forward and then a step back. Children need time to absorb all that they are learning.
There are several things we, as parents, can do to help make sure the lesson goes as well as possible:
1. For the first lesson, arrive 20 minutes early so that your child can process everything that is going on at the school.
2. Expect your child will have appropriate behaviors. Talk about what is appropriate in the positive - " Ruby, be sure and talk to the teacher using your words so he/she can help you." If you expect a major fiasco of screaming and tears, you probably will get it! Besides, who says swimming lessons have to be frightening - not us!
If your child is having a difficult swimming lesson, here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Children are not built to be put in life threatening situations, real or perceived. Never leave your child alone with an instructor. A very scared child can't learn. If a child believes she is in real danger, the brain uses it fear or fight mechanism which will cause cortisol to be secreted, which can be harmful.
2. Give the swimming coach the full lesson time if your child is not in terror. Often, the child needs time and the teacher needs time to find which one of her teaching tools will work best with your child.
Remember, here at USSA, your child is enrolled in developmental lessons. The swimming coach will take into account the child's state of mind and will work from the developmental stage he or she is at.
Not every lesson will be perfect, but not every one will be difficult either. So, remember what we tell our children. Don't give up! Try, try again!