I pulled out the bathing suits this morning. One of the truly blissful aspects of having a second daughter is that we get another season with the 2T polka-dot-ruffle-one-piece.
One of the less blissful aspects: the doubling of my anxiety about swimming.
Drowning is a tangible threat. It’s the second leading cause of death in children.
When my very cautious older daughter slipped in a pool last summer, I witnessed how quick and silent a drowning could be. There was no splashing or gasping, just two terrified little eyes poking out of water until my sister scooped her out.
Frankly, I would prefer to avoid pools altogether. Nobody else in my family will agree to that, however.
Plus, I have to accept that with Memorial Day ushering in the swim season, avoidance would just make it worse. A much better idea is to get my girls comfortable and skillful in the water.
The American Academy of Pediatrics now advises parents to teach children to learn to swim at age 4. The Academy believes most children are not developmentally ready to learn to swim earlier, but they no longer discourage lessons for younger children.
I called Dave Tonnesen, the owner of the sprawling SwimKids empire in Virginia and a former competitive swimmer himself told me, for some advice on how to jump in.
“The more time you spend playing at the beginning, the faster they’ll progress later,” he said. “The first and most important part of introducing kids to water: Make it fun.”
Here are his other tips:
• No sticking swimmies on kids and checking your iPhone or, conversely, approaching swim skills like bootcamp. As a parent, be fully present.
• Make sure the kids are comfortable in the water, that it’s warm enough for them, that it’s not too crowded, that the sun is not in their eyes.
• Play in a directed way: Have a child blow bubbles in the water to teach them breath control; Have him blow bubbles with his nose or hum under water to get used to holding his breath. When he’s ready for the next step, allow a toy to sink in relatively shallow water and ask the child to retrieve it.
Do you have any good tips? Either for kids or for parents like me who are super anxious about water?