Troubled Waters

I am teaching a 6-year old boy who has become quite anxious of the water. For the past two years he has been having group swimming lessons at the local pool with a traditional ASA swimming teacher. Classes were large, and at times a little intimidating for Adam.  Sadly Adam finds no joy in the water.

Children who have learned to become fearful, through no fault of their own, quickly lose water confidence.  Eventually they start to make excuses about attending swim classes. Before you know it, the child sees the water as the enemy, and not something to enjoy.

Lots of children have group swimming lessons, achieve their swimming awards, and move onto the next level. But, there are children just like Adam, who for whatever reason lack confidence. For them to flourish, and develop confidently, they will need very small group sessions, or individual swimming lessons.

But why? Well, for example, in class some children don’t like to ask questions when they don’t understand something, particularly when they are not feeling confident. If the child has not understood what the teacher is asking, they’ll follow the other children, thinking they are practicing the exercise that’s been asked of them. The reality though, is that the child is bluffing his or her way through the lesson, which often leads to developing bad habits, a feeling of insecurity, and an inward cry of “I can’t do it, it’s too hard.”

If a child has not learned, and understood the fundamentals of their breathing pattern above and under the water, or doesn’t know how to float and regain standing calmly, they will likely never be able to enjoy the water confidently. In my method, it is only when water-confidence skills have been learned, and the child is comfortable, can swimming strokes be introduced.

Remember Adam is only six years of age, and the habitual thought patterns he’s developing can be changed. With nurturing, patience, and understanding from the teacher, Adam can learn to not only enjoy the water, but also to be happy and safe in it.

It’s all so easy for children like Adam to slip through the net, and become one of the thousands of adults who became fearful of the water by a problem that was not addressed as a child.   Often at some point that adult may quietly long to overcome their fear of the water, particularly when they see their own children and grand-children enjoying the water.  Much of my practice is devoted to working one-on-one with adults in private lessons to overcome their fear of the water.

But why miss out on years of enjoyment?  Admittedly it’s never too late to learn, but the older we become the harder it becomes to change life long habits.

Before the child becomes that adult, it’s important for the parent to be pro-active in watching and observing their child’s swim lessons. If the child is not progressing, it’s imperative for the parent to speak to the teacher, and to share their concerns.

It’s only by communicating with the child, and the teacher that we can nip these fears in the bud, and move forward positively.

“Faith gives us the courage to face the present with confidence

and the future with expectancy”

Stephanie Dutton

Founder Member of Learning to Swim withThe Mind/Body Awareness Programme

About Stephanie Dutton

I'm one of a few specialised swimming teachers in the UK that applies the principles of the Alexander Technique in learning how to swim mindfully, calmly and gracefully. My blog is to create a way of introducing people to a different way in how they view the water.
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3 Responses to Troubled Waters

    • Vicky says:

      After many many years of swimming lessons (literally from childhood intwaulthood) and no progress, I was left with an even greater fear of the water. My traumatic experience as a child made matters worse. Letting go of the side of the pool filled me with dread. I’ve lost count of the number of times where I felt that my swimming instructor just don’t understand my fear. The sight of an instructor standing on the side of the pool shouting instructions at me and my fellow learners, scared the living daylight out of me.

      I had a few friends, bless them, who sacrificed their family time out of love (maybe desperation) to try and help me gain confidence and hopefully swim. Despite their noble efforts and genuine excitement when there was even the slightest progress, I just could not hack it.

      Then I met Stephanie!!! It amazed me how understanding she was. Finally a coach who listens to and understand my fears. Somebody who is able to identify with me. Everything was just so perfect, a beautiful swimming pool, arm and hand massages to help relax my extremely tense body, Stephanie’s undivided attention, soothing music in the background. My confidence grew slowly and steadily and before I knew it I started floating off without Stephanie holding my hands. Flapping my arms and kicking my feet (don’t worry about technique for now Stephanie said, just move your arms). Off I went, time after time, sometimes the ride was a little bumpy and at other times I just managed to get it all together (breathing, legs and arms).

      I had alot of fun with the ‘games ‘ that Stephanie introduced I.e. I had to pick up toys from the bottom of the pool as I floated towards the steps. That felt amazing. Stephanie and a colleague once engaged me in an underwater photo shoot and I was given ‘control’ of the camera for a short while. I remember feeling so good on the train back to London, I could swear my feet were not touching the ground.

      Unfortunately Stephanie had to travel to the States due to prior commitments and my lessons with her came to an end. Since Stephanie’s return my circumstances have changed and I am sadly no longer able to make the journey from South East London to Tring.

      I remain determined to swim with confidence and is back at having lessons albeit with somebody else. What I’ve learnt from Stephanie remained with me. My current instructor is often amazed at the progress that I’ve made over 3 lessons. Thanks to you Stephanie I am even more determined to achieve the one thing that has escaped me for far too long: SWIMMING!!!


  1. Joanne Husbands says:

    Hi I wonder if you can help my son is 11 and has autism and my daughter is 15 and they have both had swimming lessons but have never really learned to swim. We go to Florida next year and would like them both to be able to swim confident before we go. How much do you charge please very interested.


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