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3 tips to help kids overcome the fear of water

As warmer weather approaches, we start to think about pools, beaches, and open water. Although swimming can provide hours of endless fun, it can also be feared. If you have a child who is afraid of water or who is reluctant to learn, follow these tips to help encourage them to enjoy the water. Donna McKean and Debbie Heywood are two volunteers  with the Canadian Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Team – with years of experience teaching and supervising swimming lessons, they have gained the expertise and proper water safety knowledge to offer these 3 simple pieces of advice:  
 
1. Parents must not fear the water -  Donna and Debbie say that often times if parents have children who fear the water, it’s because the parents themselves have a  fear of water. Of course parents should be cautious of drowning and ensure kids are equipped with proper water safety knowledge, but too much overprotectiveness can instill  fear into children,  by not allowing them to explore a new environment. It’s important to remember to show comfort in the water, and don’t be afraid to get wet yourself!
 
2. Play with your kids in the water – If you play with your children in the water, it allows them to see the fun in swimming, but also ensures you are able to watch them in a safe manner while they learn. Children learn through play, so even just playing beside the water in a very shallow part of the beach will help your children become more comfortable.
 
Parents can also help kids become comfortable in the water by making bathtub time fun. Don’t hesitate to pour water over your kids heads and encourage them to make funny faces to blink the water out of their eyes. If kids enjoy bath time and experience floating and playing, then a bigger body of water won’t be as frightening.
 
3. Turn the negative into positive - Even when your child happens to go under water, instead of allowing them to think of it as a horrible experience, turn it into a game with praise, smiles and encouragement. Some parents may not be aware that submersion for a few seconds is totally okay!

On top of these tips, we also encourage you to sign your kids up for Red Cross swimming lessons. Our programs strive to make water safety active, engaging and age appropriate. Red Cross Swim teaches all five strokes including  front crawl, back crawl, breast stroke, elementary backstroke, and sidestroke while also promoting fitness and endurance, and gives swimmers lifelong skills to safely enjoy other aquatic pursuits. 

Visit our water safety tips  on our website for more info. 

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