Swimming

Understanding Children’s Cues Helps with Swimming – Why and How

As parents, you are likely to be the ones who best understand your children’s personalities and preferences. Children might, however, exhibit other emotional cues when they are in the pool and in swimming class. Over the years, we have had many children in our swimming classes –  we have observed their cues in swimming class and have come to understand what these cues might mean and how they might affect the young swimmers’ learning. We share these findings here, so that they might be helpful for parents as you continue nurturing the children’s growth in swimming.

When we are able to understand children’s cues in the pool and in swimming class, we gain insights into how they are feeling, and we can in turn adjust how we respond (eg. hold back or respectfully encourage them). When we take children’s feelings and state of comfort into consideration, they are more likely to learn faster and retain what they learn for longer.

Whether they are enthusiastic or hesitant, the learning journey is not always a straight path – your children may go through phases of both enthusiasm and hesitation, and may seem comfortable one day and less on another day. That is typical, and happens due to factors such as developmental milestones, sleep patterns, social interactions, etc. We can help the children by acknowledging their feelings, such as acknowledging their reluctance to submerge that day, even if they were happily swimming underwater before.

Enthusiasm
When children are comfortable and enthusiastic about the activities in swimming class, you might observe them:

  • Initiating the activities
  • Wanting to repeat the activities (sometimes shouting “again!”)
  • Swimming a little further than the activity asks for
  • Being more adventurous in the water and shedding fear (such as going for a deeper dive as they swim to you, rather than a more surface-level swim)

When your children are enthusiastic, they might get much more practice, and learn new skills on their own.

You can support them by:

  • Giving them the space to explore and self-learn, while looking out for their safety, eg. helping them up, if they need, after self-initiated submersions
  • Identifying areas within their exploration for further learning, eg. if they are having fun picking up sinker toys, offering them
  • smaller sinker toys can be a natural progression
  • Co-regulating your children’s excitement by maintaining a calm energy
  • Looking out for signs of tiredness and providing limits, so that the enthusiasm remains enjoyable and safe

Hesitation / Reluctance
When children are uncomfortable and hesitant or reluctant about the activities in swimming class, you might observe them:

  • Saying “no” or saying they feel cold
  • Arching their backs
  • Clinging on to you
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Laughing nervously

When your children are hesitant or reluctant, they might be grappling with concepts of safety, self-protection, or decision-making, all of which are useful for their development. It is helpful to keep our focus on the longer term goals of nurturing love for swimming and water safety, and ensure the way we react and respond to the children will not prolong the periods of hesitation and reluctance. Rather, that we gently steward the children out of the phase – so they come out of it with added confidence!

You can support them by:

  • Staying aware of your own emotions and regulating your emotions, so as to stay calm and dependable for your children’s learning
  • Relaxing your expectations and focusing on connection and fun
  • Affirming their feelings and their hesitation/reluctance, letting them know you understand
  • Offering adaptations, which the swim teacher can help you with
  • Tapping on their strengths and giving them the space to explore and self-learn from within their zone of confidence
  • Keeping in communication with the swim teacher so as to remain strong partners in your children’s swimming journey

We hope these tips are helpful for you! Let us know what you think by writing to us with your thoughts and suggestions.

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