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My Daughter Has A Fear Of Going Underwater

My daughter has a fear of going underwater. She is 8, almost 9, and very afraid to go under water. We've practiced 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 in very gradual steps. Practicing holding the breath is a great start, but also blowing bubbles at the surface is very useful too. It is important for her to get used to having water splashing around her face and placing the chin just 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. Mouth closed and placing her 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 take a big enough breath initially, and so 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 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 stuff you can play around with in the bath tub 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 as they literally open up a whole 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 a stage where she was happy before. 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, then you’re pretty much done. Kids very quickly realise at this stage that submerging is actually a cool thing to do. You will probably find she will spend more time underwater than above it!

Your daughters fear is not a fear of going underwater, but a fear of the unknown. By working through these stages slowly and gradually you are allowing her to explore and discover.

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