Teaching children to overcome water anxiety starts with parents who are comfortable in and around the water.

Surveys suggest that nearly two out of three adults are uncomfortable being in water over their head – if that describes your feelings in the pool, you may be passing on your water anxiety on to your child. This is a good time to remind parents that a positive attitude is crucial to teaching children swimming skills and water safety.

If you struggle with anxiety in the water here are some steps to increase your comfort and hopefully pass that on to your children:

Familiarize yourself with having your face in the water.

This is one we teach to all early swimmers and it builds confidence in adults as well. Stand in the pool, place your hands on the side, and practice taking a breath and putting your face in the water. Goggles may help your confidence, use them if you need to.

Practice submerging yourself.

Begin by holding the side of the pool and dunking yourself for a few seconds. Extend your time underwater; work your way up to letting go of the wall and settling on the bottom for a few seconds.

Spend more time underwater.

Now that you are comfortable on the bottom, stay down a little longer and look around at the other swimmers. Take your time. Toddlers in our classes, some as young as eighteen-months, will often submerge themselves and look around curiously at what is going on around them. Keep practicing to increase your comfort and the time you can spend underwater.

One more tip: Swim with a friend if you can, even if they just sit poolside and watch.

Remember, successful swimming is not about propulsion: it’s about breath control, balance, and buoyancy. Comfort in the pool is important, as relaxed swimmers make better decisions underwater and are ultimately safer. These are among the most important lessons that can be passed along to your child.