It’s your first day at Goldfish. You approach the pool deck to meet your new instructor, but your child’s mood suddenly changes. Tears are streaming down their face, and they’ve grabbed onto your hand with a force you never imagined. Your child is terrified of the pool.

Don’t fret. This fear is completely normal, and can be conquered with a combination of patience, practice and willpower. Before you head to Goldfish, here are three ways you can prepare for that pool deck anxiety:

Photo of Rae and Gus at Goldfish CarmelRub-a-dub-dub, get comfortable with the water in the tub!

As we mentioned before, you’ve probably spent some time in the tub with your child. Sure, the size of the tub is no match for the pool, but there are some great conditioning skills we encourage parents to try at home before and after lessons:

  • Trying on goggles to get your child comfortable with how they feel and how they can see underwater
  • Blowing bubbles in the water
  • Slowly pouring cups of water over your child’s head

Of course, we can’t predict how your child will react to the sight of the pool, but water exposure goes a long way.

Be encouraging and patient.

Don’t get frustrated. It might take some time for those tears to stop. Offer words of encouragement on the way to your lesson and reward your child for achieving milestones in the water.

Tom Anderson, General Manager at Goldfish Carmel, knows from personal experience how long the process can take. When his twin daughters, Rae and Gus, showed up for their first day of lessons, the mood quickly went south. Thankfully, their instructor came up with a creative way to keep the girls in the water. Tom explains:

The saving grace was the large rubber ducky used for the baby classes. Gus would only get in the water and participate in lessons while clutching the ducky in her arms. This ducky became a teaching tool for the first three weeks.

It took up to three months for all crying to stop, and the girls still have their moments, but they’ve since learned to love their time in the water.

Take a step back.

No one likes to see a child scared and unhappy. The sight of tears can make parents question their motives for coming to swim lessons in the first place. Tom breaks down how he rationalized “letting go”:

As parents, we knew what had to be done in terms of cutting the proverbial umbilical. We knew we had to stay out of sight of our children, and we knew it would take weeks. The fact that it took months was a surprise, but not a big one, knowing our girls’ stubborn personalities. We never saw their apprehension to getting in the water as fear.

Tom perceived their unique reactions to the water as a result of instinct or personal preference, rather than a fault of his own. After all, as a Goldfish general manager, Tom had always been encouraging when it came to swimming and the water, which general manager of Goldfish Macomb, Chrissy Orlando, says is one of the most important factors in preparing your child for the pool.

And, eventually, that parental support paid off: Rae and Gus would learn how to say goodbye to their parents and trust their instructor, Mr. Derek. Those tears have now become a distant memory.

Don’t give up. Making the jump into swimming as a family can be daunting, but the physical and social benefits last for a lifetime. Visit our pre-registration page for more information on your nearest Goldfish Swim School location.

In this informational video, see how Chrissy helps parents to identify and alleviate their child’s fear of the water.