Tuesday 5 July 2011

Teaching your Child to Swim

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What age should your child be able to swim?  That is the question I am pondering at the moment.

I did not learn to swim until I was 18 years old and on my first foreign holiday with my super confident swimmer boyfriend. This is quiet bizarre considering I recall receiving a swim badge at school (for 10 metres or whatever the first stage was then) when I was 9 years old. I do remember my feet kept touching the floor though and the teacher not noticing!

Due to this I have a desire for all my children to be able to swim. Not to Olympic standard you understand but to be confident to be able to save their lives if they ever needed to. JJ is now nearly 8 years old and he can not swim yet.  This is not a problem per see, as he is still a young boy but I am wondering what to do for the best.  JJ had swim lessons as a baby, we did about a year of once a week lessons together when he was just months old. I hoped this would improve his confidence to be under the water - sadly not so!

Easter 2010, when JJ was 6.5 years I decided that he needed to have some formal lessons again as we never go swimming as a family due to the ratios needed and with three young children and only two parents, it never works out!

JJ loved his lessons at first and I think his confidence was boosted as he realised he could be in a pool without armbands and then slowly he started to take strokes forward without any kind of floats and he has definitely progressed in the last 15 months but it has been very slow progression. This would not be a problem to me if JJ was enjoying it, but each week now he asks if he has to go and says he does not enjoy it. Surely that defects the object? Without a willingness, will he really progress and learn?

The big stumbling block for JJ seems to be putting his face in the water, he hates it with a passion, having before cried his little eyes out and breaking my heart in the process. I am so proud of the efforts he has made. The teacher tells me that he goes off into his own world and that he is improving, just slowly but I watch him and know he is trying with all his might to get it right.  Despite hating the sensation of the water in his nose he ducks his head right under and takes a few strokes before bobbing back up again and then diving right in once more.

15 months after JJ started lessons I am now thinking of letting him have a break, taking the summer off and then he will start lessons with school in September, different pool, different teacher - hopefully they might take a new approach and not expect him to learn all the different strokes.  Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't something like butterfly stroke an advanced technique?  Does my 7 year old need to know this?  I am pretty sure not, I just want him to be able to swim on his front and back in perhaps the crawl and breaststroke.  Just enough that he can enjoy swimming with his mates when he is older and hold his own in the Cub fun gala's.

We don't really have the money for 1:1 lessons, especially when the girls will need lessons soon as well.  Things would be much easier if dh or I swam well and then we could teach the kids but sadly whilst I enjoy swimming now I have no real competence and I can not stand to put my face in the water ongoing either.

So where do we go from here?  Any good advice for me?  Will it be helpful for JJ and I to just go together once a week so he gets to have some fun in the water, whilst having a bit of a practice without it being a real pressure for him?  I think this might be what I will do, I taught him to ride his bike and he never though he would so maybe I can work my magic on this swimming lark too.

Ultimately I don't want JJ to stay in a club that he does not enjoy.  I always swore I would never be one of those parents who dictate their children's social lives.  You know the type:  Bertie does Violin on a  Monday, French lessons on a Tuesday, Drama on a Thursday and then Swimming on a Saturday - no thank you!

It is not right that a child attempt to fulfil all the childhood dreams of their parent but I do not think that is what I am doing here with JJ.  I, deep down believe there is a very real need for every child to have the important life-saving skill of swimming.

I suppose I come full circle back to the question, does it really matter if he can not swim? I mean, how often do we actually go to the pool or the sea anyway?

So what age do you think your child should learn to swim?  and how important is it to you?  I'd love to hear some other perspectives.

Thanks, Mich x