Gail Rickets August blog: Bath time Tantrums & Tears at the Swimming Pool

Bath time Tantrums & Tears at the Swimming Pool

Parents who have problems at the swimming pool with their children may also have issues at home when either trying to get their child into the bath or shower and when washing their hair.  The good news is once they are confident in the swimming pool, they will generally be much happier at home at bath time, less stress for everyone!

So, how do you do that?

Do you often say to your child or children ‘Not to splash and make a mess’ when in the bath?  Do you ask them to ‘Hurry quick and stay out of the rain?’  Think about negative vocabulary you maybe using around water, and think about changing it.  It may sound silly but I have been told by many parents they didn’t realise how they used these types of words at home  or when it rained which may add to their child’s fear of water.  Let them play in the rain for a few minutes, (wrapped up and with wellington on of course!)

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Above: Gail with Thomas Photo’s by Dave Bates

It could be a tricky one without my support as I see children that are not scared of the water crying the second they step onto the pool side.  For me, I have to look at other issues why a child is crying, a parent may think it’s being at the pool and scared of the water, but for me there’s a few other matters not quite a direct fear of water why they are crying, for example it is a new place they have not seen before.

So it maybe be a little difficult at first for the parent to improve their child’s confidence quickly at the swimming pool if they are really crying, screaming and clinging to their parents neck.  So here’s a couple of tips which I hope will help, and a lovely story about, Thomas Shatwell 3 1/2 yrs old who was terrified of water.

I often advise parents to put their costume on and the child’s, and armbands on the child and get in the bath at home, strictly no soap and just play in the bath with the child and some toys.  Do this a few times before you go to the pool again so playing in the bath does not mean hair wash or soap possible in eyes or any thing negative about the water.  Then tell the little one you are going to a place just like the bath at home but more people can fit in it.   I’d suggest to go to another pool if possible to the one where he or she was last screaming or crying at.  Take the little ones bath time toys with you too.

When you are at the pool make sure it is one of the quiter times if possible, call the pool office and ask when these times are?  Is the water really warm enough for a young child, go into the baby pool as they are warmer than  main pools.  Use arm bands and a rubber ring and have the child hold the rubber ring and not your neck and you gently pull the little one around in the ring.

Put the arm bands on and ring on in the changing room not on the pool side where the tears and tantrums may begin and you have more of a struggle to get them on then once the tears begin.  Wet the arm bands and the child’s arms first so they are easier to get on, use the warm tap in the toilet, or just put them on flat then blow them up.  Talk to your child all the time as if nothing is wrong and try and engage their mind in something else such as, ‘will you draw me a Postman Pat / Peppa Pig picture later?    ‘Oliver’s party is soon what would you like to wear?’  Any random topic will do that you know your child likes.

Thomas Shatwell’s progress in four hours was amazing here is what happened.

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Above: Mum (karen) and Thomas

Thomas is a lovely little boy who came to me recently as his Mother Karen had problems at home and at the pool. Karen had tried many times to help him stay calm both at bath time at home and at the swimming pool but she felt she was getting nowhere, she gave up and found myself for help.  Thomas would not have a shower at home, had tantrums when washing his hair.  Thomas clung for dear life around Karen’s neck when they got into the pool, he screamed and cried just wanting to get back out.

So I took on the challenge.

Firstly I was firm but kind with Thomas as nurturing the tears and being like a ‘Mum’ to him just makes the tears go up 100%.  It’s not nice for me to see the little ones in tears and I know the parent’s are generally feeling anxious watching the process too. However in most cases with me it takes about 15 min’s on average for a child to get over their tears and to start work on their confidence.

By the end of the first hour with me, Thomas was washing his own hair with the watering can, getting toys off the bottom of the pool steps which was deep enough for him.  He let me take his arm bands off and he was jumping in the deep end, and going right down to the bottom of the pool at the deep end too.

By the end of the four hours, Thomas was mobile in the water with his arm bands on and very happy with himself.  Even after a ‘war of the wills’ at the start he wore the goggles too.  He played with his mum Karen and raced across the pool with her swimming on his back and front.  He also floated on his own for a few seconds and swam a few seconds on his back without his arm bands on.

This was wonderful for such a scared and upset boy of only 3 1/2 yrs old to see his view change of the swimming pool and do so well.  Karen told me that over the next few days at home during the course with me Thomas was happy to go into the shower and she was able to wash his hair without any tears.  I hear he has also since been swimming with his Dad to show off his new skills!


I had another boy this week Harvey, a few years older than Thomas, and he was very nervous of the water. I have one half hour lesson left with him, but in the first lesson he swam a 10 meters on his back unaided, and went on to swim 17 lengths, (170 meters) full backstroke and he’s learnt front crawl with correct breathing.  He’s hopefully going to have breaststroke finished by the end of his last lesson on the 4 day VIP course.

My point here is that different ages you will generally get bigger and quicker achievements during one of my private course .  Harvey is loving going underwater swimming too collecting toys off the floor as he goes.  Harvey’s mum tells me his overall confidence has improved not just in the water but in his everyday life.

Swimming is a wonderful skill to have and can help in so many other areas of a child’s life and build confidence too.

In my next blog I will tell you all about Eve who wants to learn to swim to go to her friends swimming party without needing her arm bands on and how to get your child mobile in the water.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would just like a little bit of advice if you have difficulties with you child around water.

Thanks Gail    07449135450

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