How Jax overcame his fear of water
By Jessica-lea Leggett (Jax’s mum)
Jax’s fear of water
I never thought my son would have a fear of the water because we live near the beach and it’s part of our regular family life. We often go to the beach several days a week and have done so since he was born. Jax has never had a bad experience around water.
When Jax was around the age of two years old, I began to notice a fear developing. At age three, this fear was getting worse no matter how positive and encouraging I was. Jax was screaming any time I tried to go for a swim, and even if I tried taking him in the water with me.
My friend, who had recently started swimming lessons at JUMP! with her own children, had told me how well they were progressing and suggested Jax join their class.
I thought it was time to leave it to the professionals, and I booked Jax in at our local JUMP! swim school.
Jax’s starts swimming lessons at JUMP!
Despite the fact Jax was in the class with three other children who are his best friends, Jax was hesitant in participating. I’m so thankful the instructors are so wonderful and helped comfort him because as a Mum, it was really hard to watch.
I knew we had to persevere with the lessons because it was important my son built a positive relationship with the water and learnt to swim.
I trusted the process and understood that once he realised he was safe in the water with the instructors, those fears would subside. I was correct!
The instructors at the swim school were amazing and it helped that the classes were small and intimate, which meant he could get the extra care he needed. Their positive attitude and consistent structure to the lessons really helped as Jax knew what to expect each lesson.
I feel like the instructors followed his cues while pushing him just the right amount – just enough to increase confidence, but not too much to push him away from wanting to learn.
After a few difficult lessons he started to make progress. It took about a month but slowly, he was willing to try new things in the water.
At one of the lessons around the one-month mark, he willingly jumped into the water because he knew he was going to be caught!
A big milestone
A big milestone, which he achieved after six months of lessons, was jumping into the pool and swimming to the platform on his own with no assistance!
He can also now turn around after falling in and reach for the side, which is so amazing to see as a parent because it’s a skill that might one day save his life.
These days, my son begs me to go in the water with him. He pulls me into the water and he is more than happy for me to swim on my own now and he loves watching me.
He’s extremely excited about lessons and we have them marked on our weekly calendar so he can count the days down until his next lesson.
My advice to other parents in a similar situation, is to not hesitate and don’t be put off by the initial unpleasantness that you and your child might have to endure. Having a child know how to handle themselves in the water is not only a lifesaving skill, but something they really enjoy and experience a great sense of accomplishment from.
Being consistent and prioritising the lessons is also important. Missing a few here and there without doing make-up lessons will hinder their improvement, I’ve noticed other children who missed their lessons didn’t progress.
Jax has improved in leaps and bounds because we show up consistently week after week and, if not, I prioritise a make-up lesson. Be consistent, show up, and it will make all the difference.
Here are a few extra tips for parents who can support their child overcome a fear of water:
- Stay positive and relaxed around water. Sometimes easier said than done! But the more you can do this, the less stressful the situation is for your child.
- Make trips to the swimming pool and other water-orientated locations as fun as possible so you start to develop that positive association.
- Stay close around water. Depending on the age of the child, you may or may not have to be in the water with them. But regardless, stay close. Don’t leave the pool area to duck to reception or the bathroom, even if there are other trusted adults to watch your child. Your child needs to maintain a line of sight with you.
- Arrive to lessons or water-based playdates early so it’s not rushed. This also allows some time for your child to do something fun near (but not all the way in) the water, like playing with pool toys on the side of the pool or popping their feet in the pool.
- Sometimes a fear of water is linked to social anxiety. If this is the case, it may be worth considering looking at one-on-one lessons for a period of time, or smaller group lessons at a smaller pool.