the importance of A ‘happy parent’ around the pool
Being a parent isn’t an easy job; it’s full of strong emotions and exhausting moments. Our children pick up on these emotions more clearly than we expect, and they amplify it into their own lives. Children don’t have the skills nor mental maturity to deal with these big emotions by themselves. When children are faced with a new situation, they turn to the people that they trust the most – their parents. If you, as their parent and their most trusted person, are showing them in some way that you are afraid, they will amplify the emotion, and you suddenly have a terrified or anxious child who doesn’t know any other way to react.
Are we calm enough?
As their parent and most trusted person, we must show our children that we are calm, that learning to swim is a good thing and that we support them through this new skill that they are learning. To work through any big emotions, there are some simple steps; taking it slowly, enjoying the moment with your children and making it fun for them! It’s almost essential to remember not to push your children to be the best in the class, or to be the fastest to progress.
Learning to swim isn’t a competition, and every child learns to swim at their own pace – which is no different from learning to read or write. Teach yourself, and your children, to focus on each stage of their learning, not on the finish line. If the finish line is all you can look for, it’ll feel like your child is not progressing, and your child will pick up on your frustration, bringing that emotion into their lessons. Focussing on each small, individual moment of progression of your child’s learning will also make it easier for you to show your enthusiasm, as well as keep your emotions positive towards your child’s lessons.
An Australian study showed toddlers a rubber snake and a spider paired alternatively with either negative or positive facial expressions by their mothers. Gerull and Rapee (2002) showed that children showed higher fear expressions and avoidance of stimuli following adverse reactions from their mothers. This is known as observational learning. Observational learning can be described as watching others around you and learning through their actions, how they dress and so forth, and then replicating them. In this case, your children are observing your facial expressions and your body language while they are swimming.
This ultimately means that, as parents, our facial expressions and body language need to be positive, most notably in a new and scary situation. It can be easy to forget that your child is looking at everyone and everything around them – including you. They’re absorbing your facial expressions and your body language, and they’re connecting that into their class and creating negative feelings towards their level, the water and even their swimming teacher.
If you’re nervous, or even if your child is nervous, keep communication lines open with your child’s instructor, they will understand and give you options on how you both can grow to become more comfortable.
My mum was petrified of spiders. She didn’t want her children to be as terrified as she was, so whenever there was a spider in sight, she pretended it didn’t bother her. After a lot of acting, she realised one day that she wasn’t petrified anymore (unless they were big and hairy)! So, if you are nervous fake it ‘til you make it.
If you are a nervous parent or guardian, feel free to contact;
If you’re seeking more information on the developmental stages in your child’s swimming lessons, the data can be found here;
As their parent and most trusted person, we must show our children that we are calm, that learning to swim is a good thing and that we support them through this new skill that they are learning.
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