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Daughter afraid to put her head in the water...


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#1 Maree83

Posted 28 July 2019 - 03:35 PM

Hello everyone,
Hopefully someone has been through this or has some advice.  My daughter's are both taking swimming lessons,  and my eldest (4yo), refuses to put her face in the water,  or dunk her head in any way.
It is starting to impact her lessons a bit,  so I am concerned about what to do. She actually enjoys the water, and will participate in all activities the instructor does, as long as she doesn't have to put her head in the water.
She will tell the instructor she doesn't want to do that. The instructor is very patient,  so hasn't been too stern or pushing her in any way. My husband and I are taking the same approach,  trying to keep things light and keep it fun.
We go to the pool together, have tried thinking of games to play,  we show her how we put our heads in the water, practice in the bath, pouring water on our heads, blowing bubbles,  etc etc.
She cried in her last lesson, as she didn't want to put her head in (instructor only asked once, so wasn't pushing her).
I am just wondering how to overcome this fear...As a baby it never bothered her going under water, this is really a new fear. Nothing has happened to trigger it as far as I am aware.
Any advice would be great.
Thanks guys.

#2 Fizgig

Posted 28 July 2019 - 03:44 PM

My DD did lessons as a baby and was very good at going under the water. Then I had my second and we didn’t get back to swimming lessons until she was about three and half. At that point she was now scared of putting her head in the water. Would not put her face or head in at all. When the instructor was trying to do a back float with her my DD would be craning her neck to get her head out of the water. Honestly it just took a lot of time. She spent over a year in the same level. The instructor did lots of skills as games, blowing bubbles, and pouring water on their own head. From memory it took about two terms before she would rest her head in the water for a back float and another two before she would put her face in properly for a front float. I despaired of her ever having fun in the water as I would watch much younger kids bob down under the water. She is now six and loves swimming, diving under the water, and jumping into the water.

It is hard watching it and you feel that they will never get there but the gentle, relaxed, enjoyment approach will get you there in the end. And sometimes the end is a lot further away than you think!!

#3 teejay

Posted 28 July 2019 - 04:07 PM

I used to be a swimming teacher and it's really tough with the kids that are scared of putting their face in the water. Not so much when they are younger but as they actually start to learn strokes it's not really possible to learn properly
You are doing all the right things and hopefully in time she will be happy to do it.
One thing that did work pretty well was in the really swallow where I would put toys on the bottom and try and get the kids to find them. For the ones that were afraid to open their eyes under water but also for the ones afraid to put their heads in.

#4 BeachesBaby

Posted 28 July 2019 - 04:32 PM

I'm not sure this will be encouraging or have the opposite effect, but I was this kid. We grew up at the beach, I lived in the ocean all summer, and would spend hours running between the pool and ocean with my friends. But I was also that kid who didn't want to get her face wet. I can't tell you what the big deal is, but even after I got past getting my face wet, then I wouldn't/couldn't jump or dive in without holding my nose.

I only got over it when my friends peer pressured me when I was 12 to dive in without holding my nose, and from then on I was fine! I had even been competing in swimming, only doing the backstroke, so it didn't really get in the way of swimming or water activities.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that even if your child doesn't want to get their face wet for a while, they can still learn survival swimming, go through swimming lessons, and even (with an understanding coach) be part of swim team. Eventually it will happen...it just might be until their friends pressure them to do it!

#5 BornToLove

Posted 28 July 2019 - 04:53 PM

DD had a girl in her swimming lessons who had a similar issue. Her mum was about to pull her DD out of lessons over it.

Most of the kids played together after lessons so I suggested they stay back to play (they usually left straight away) and see if ‘peer pressure’ would help. It did, the second week they stayed back, she dunked her head under. The next class, the kid was a natural fish, wouldn’t know there was an issue.

#6 Maree83

Posted 28 July 2019 - 05:10 PM

Thank you for the advice and kind words...it helps knowing that others have been through the same thing.
We really only want her to learn survival skills in the water, I think it is a very good skill to have. I hated swimming when I was younger,  and wasn't confident in the water, don't want her to follow too much in my footsteps in this area.🙄
If she can swim to the edge and stay afloat, I will be happy, lol. Unless of course,  she decides she wants to go further with it.
I will continue with the lessons, and hopefully her confidence will grow.

#7 Kreme

Posted 28 July 2019 - 05:23 PM

My daughter was exactly the same at that age. It resolved when we went on holiday for a week at a resort with a pool. We were swimming twice every day and with some gentle encouragement she started putting her face in.

Also if you haven’t already got them you can get goggles that are bigger than standard ones, with more coverage for the eyes. My kids felt more secure in those than in the racing style goggles.

DD is now a fish and spends more time under the water doing handstands and somersaults than she does on the top!

#8 PrincessPeach

Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:04 PM

Swim school near us suggest gently pouring a small cup of water over their face in the bath (with warning of course). Then increasing this amount slowly.

But there are plenty of kids like this, so don't feel to bad.

#9 seayork2002

Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:15 PM

We was not a fan of putting his head under but managed to get through 5 years of lessons, they played dive and collect a ring game and he tolerated that but that was the only time from memory

#10 sueratbag

Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:18 PM

My DD was scared of water generally. I just took her in regularly, ad went at her pace.

I also found snorkel and goggles were great - initially as a toy in the bath. Even goggles alone may work.

#11 Jenflea

Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:21 PM

I'm 44 and have never got over hating putting my face under water, sorry.

I can JUST tolerate short bursts in the shower, but that's it.

#12 Let-it-go

Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:38 PM

I’m going to go against the general grain of EB here and tbh, most of Australia, on my thoughts.

Firstly I will preface with saying that I take water safety very, very seriously.  I’ve grown up being at the beach all summer, friends with pools, pools on holidays etc etc.  I’m completely on board with swimming being an essential skill.

BUT your DD is 4.  Australia is just obsessed with these weekly year after year swim lesson from the time kids are born that cost us an arm and a leg.  And because everyone is doing them we are made to feel we’re failing our kids if they aren’t doing them.

But do you know what, I feel like it’s such a $$$ con.  You can have your child learn survival swimming without endless year round lessons or even putting your head underwater.  I HATE putting my. head underwater, always did and always will.  I might dip it in on a super hot day to cool off in the sea.  A chlorinated stinky pool....no thanks.  Why should kids be any different?  Putting your face in the water if a horrible feeling for some of us, it’s cold, your hair is then cold and it’s currently winter.  I won’t put my head under water so why should my child.  But yet I can do breathstroke and survival backstroke for hours, lap after lap (all with dry hair) and I’m more than capable of saving myself and have been since I was left unsupervised in the water.  Sure, I didn’t make the school swim team but who cares.  

My DD has loved swimming, awesome, good for her.  My DS hated it and I pulled him from the unsuitable costly lessons that were sending him backward when he was 3.5.  He does vacswim at school and last summer at the beach and he’s totally fine, a pretty decent swimmer at age 7.  I expect that will continue to develop with school lessons, probably another bout of lessons to fine tune some strokes, holidays in pools and in the meantime an adult will be watching because he’s only 7.  And by the time he’s able to be unsupervised, he’ll be more than capable of survival swim.

I dunno, I don’t get this obsession with weekly swim lessons.  So unpleasant, so much horrible chlorine and so expensive if they don’t enjoy it,  God knows we don’t force our kids out to football and soccer if they hate it.  And look, I get the need for survival but why does she need to put her head under the water at age 4 :shrug:?

Edited by Let-it-go, 28 July 2019 - 07:44 PM.


#13 SleepDebt

Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:43 PM

For what it's worth, I was the same. At age 6 I had my first school swimming lesson and the teacher just dunked me and totally terrified me - they couldn't get me back in the pool after that and I still remember the experience vividly today. Don't dunk her. It will only make her fears worse. Give her plenty of opportunity to play in water and she'll get used to it in her own time.

#14 22Fruitmincepies

Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:54 PM

The thing that has motivated DD the most was watching her friends do it, and wanting to swim like them. We dropped lessons for a while as DD was not enjoying them, picked them back up when she was 4 with a lot more success.

#15 Pocket...

Posted 28 July 2019 - 07:55 PM

I had this with both my kids. Both started lessons asap so about 4 months for one and 8 weeks for the other.

Ds was fine for ages then had a spluttering incident and took about a year to get over it and just did it in his own. Dd was the same and is just getting into it again now. She took bribery.

I will say with my two they both spluttered each time they went under for a while, and for dd it only stopped when she had her adenoids out. I do the same, water shoots straight up my nose and clears my sinuses. It's horrible. So for us it could be odd nasal passage issues.

Getting the face in the water is important for getting your body to be horizontal and streamline which means swimming distance takes far less energy which is where it's important in the long run for water safety. No teacher had ever pressured our kids to go under water though as they focused on confidence, ie not panicking, and how to be safe around water until then. It's hard not to panic if you are indeed actually inhaling water.

Edited by Pocket..., 28 July 2019 - 10:00 PM.


#16 Mands09

Posted 28 July 2019 - 09:06 PM

This was my kid at 4. For a year in private lessons the teacher could not get him to put his head under so she wouldn’t progress him so he was bored and we stopped. We went on holiday to Fiji a year later and no issues at all. She will get there when she is ready.

#17 Maree83

Posted 29 July 2019 - 08:06 AM

Thanks to everyone for there replies. Looks like this isn't as uncommon as I thought it might be.
I will continue with the lessons for now, because for the most part, my daughter does enjoy them, she doesn't want to leave at the end of the lesson, at least I know she is mostly having fun.
I did feel a little pressure into getting lessons for her and my other daughter, but saying that,  wanted her to go to school next year at least a little prepared (they have a pool there).
I haven't been and won't push her to put her head in the water, I want her to enjoy herself,  and really just want her to feel confident enough to make her way to the edge of the pool if something ever did happen.
The instructor just wanted her to get used to the water being on her face because,  a lot of drowning occurs when a child slips into a pool, if she panics in that situation, it would obviously be worse for her.
It is unlikely to happen in our circumstances though,  we don't own a pool and our family and close friends don't either. Plus, add in the eagle eyes of Mum and Dad, lol.
Thanks for making me reassured.

#18 SplashingRainbows

Posted 29 July 2019 - 08:10 AM

We’ve waited till our kids were older for swimming for this reason.

And bribery works.

#19 JomoMum

Posted 29 July 2019 - 08:30 AM

At 4yo, is it really an issue if she wants to keep her head above water?

I can’t see how it would be worth forcing the issue or trying to fix it if she’s not ready.

#20 BeachesBaby

Posted 29 July 2019 - 08:41 AM

Maree83 - it sounds like you’re really supportive of your child, and that you’ve got a path forward, and a few anecdotal tales about us no-water-on-the-face crew to show you it seems pretty normal. Enjoy swim lessons, and good luck!

#21 Maree83

Posted 29 July 2019 - 08:56 AM

View PostBeachesBaby, on 29 July 2019 - 08:41 AM, said:

Maree83 - it sounds like you’re really supportive of your child, and that you’ve got a path forward, and a few anecdotal tales about us no-water-on-the-face crew to show you it seems pretty normal. Enjoy swim lessons, and good luck!
Thank you! Yes, I definitely do support her. I am not that keen on swimming myself, lol. I just didn't want her getting to school next year, and not have some very basic skills under her belt.
If she hated the lessons, I would stop, but for the most part,  she loves them.
I was worried about it not being normal,  I watch her lessons, and she is the only one not going under, plus at the pool when we go together, it is our girl with the perfectly dry hair, lol.....perfectly groomed though.😋

#22 Maree83

Posted 29 July 2019 - 09:00 AM

View PostJomoMum, on 29 July 2019 - 08:30 AM, said:

At 4yo, is it really an issue if she wants to keep her head above water?

I can’t see how it would be worth forcing the issue or trying to fix it if she’s not ready.

No, it's not an issue as such. I was more wanting to see if it is normal,  and if she's anxious about it, how we can support her in making her feel more confident and safe.
We are not forcing the issue,  we don't mention it all the time or anything.  She loves her lessons, until she is asked about putting her face in the water.
Like I said previously, if she hated the lessons, we would stop, but she doesn't.
Would like to boost her confidence and let her get the most out of her time there that's all.

#23 hills mum bec

Posted 29 July 2019 - 10:30 AM

OP, I was your child when I was young.  I am now in my 40's and still refuse to put my head under water.  I can swim a great breast stroke and back stroke and can float and tread water for hours but there is no way I am putting my head under water.  I won't even put my face under water in the shower, I will tip my head back to wash my hair and I will wash my face with a wet facewasher but no way to running water on my face.  Those modern shower heads that come directly out of the ceiling terrify me and you will never see one of those in my house.  Your DD will be able to learn survival swimming skills without having to put her head underwater.

#24 Let-it-go

Posted 29 July 2019 - 11:04 AM

View Posthills mum bec, on 29 July 2019 - 10:30 AM, said:

OP, I was your child when I was young.  I am now in my 40's and still refuse to put my head under water.  I can swim a great breast stroke and back stroke and can float and tread water for hours but there is no way I am putting my head under water.  I won't even put my face under water in the shower, I will tip my head back to wash my hair and I will wash my face with a wet facewasher but no way to running water on my face.  Those modern shower heads that come directly out of the ceiling terrify me and you will never see one of those in my house.  

:laugh: I thought I was the only one that hates those horrible showerheads out of the ceiling!  It’s like my worst nightmare.  I wash my hair the same way and to wash my face, let the water catch in my hands and then gently wash my face with wet hands.

#25 Maree83

Posted 29 July 2019 - 11:11 AM

Good to know that she will learn the necessary skills without having to get her hair wet,lol.




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