My daughter has a fear of going underwater. She is 8, almost 9, and afraid to go underwater. We've practised holding our breath etc., but she's still very fearful. I'm worried about her not being able to swim at this age and would appreciate any tips or ideas you might have on helping her overcome this fear.
The best way to help your daughter conquer her fear of going underwater is to do it gradually. Practising holding your breath is a great start, but blowing bubbles at the surface is also very useful. She needs to get used to water splashing around her face and placing her chin on the water surface and blowing so that the ‘bubbles tickle your nose is great practice and experience. Blowing an object along can be fun too.
Your daughter may well be cool with all of this stuff, and if so, then great.
The next step is holding her breath and gently lowing her mouth into the water. Their mouth closed and placing their lips in the water. Watch carefully that she is not breathing through her nose as she does this. Some children can hold their breath but do not initially take a big enough breath, so they instantly inhale as they place their mouth or nose in the water. Encourage her to ’take a big breath as if you are about to blow out the candles on your birthday cake’. This should ensure she has enough breath.
The amount she places her face in the water here is crucial. Start with only the mouth, then progress to adding the tip of the nose, then the mouth and nose. Only progress to the next step when she is happy and confident with the first, and don’t force the issue. If you pressure her, she may well regress.
By the way, this is all you can play around with in the bathtub at home, and sometimes a change of environment can help.
In the pool, placing objects like sinkers and toys under the water, either on the pool floor or held in your hand, can encourage her to put her face in the water. Swim goggles will help massively open up a new world for kids. If she is hesitant at this stage, then encourage her only to look for the objects. This will make her look downwards as she swims, hopefully placing her mouth and nose in the water as she does so.
Place the toys far enough under the water for her to reach by placing only her mouth or mouth and nose in the water. We are not forcing her to go underwater yet. Once she is confident picking up the object or toy this way, then place it further down, encouraging her to submerge her goggles slightly and briefly.
Once again, do not force any issues or stages at all. If she is not happy to progress, then go back to a stage where she was happy. Make it fun, and don’t make a big deal out of anything. Be encouraging and positive about everything.
Once she has become confident with retrieving an object held under the water by placing her whole face underwater, you’re pretty much done. Kids very quickly realise at this stage that submerging is a cool thing. You will probably find she will spend more time underwater than above it!
Your daughter's fear is not of going underwater but of the unknown. By working through these stages slowly and gradually, you are allowing her to explore and discover.