By Mike Moses
DHAC Swim Instructor and Hydras Coach
Summer is here, which means sun, fun, and of course, swimming. I remember my parents buying our first above ground pool in the backyard, going over friends' houses to swim in their pools, and heading out to the beach on our weekend family outings. Of all the time I remember in the water, I never remember being scared, and I never remember wearing lifejackets or bubbles. I was always comfortable in the pool, including putting my face in the water.
Going under water, or dunking as we call it in swim lessons, can be a very difficult thing for kids to get comfortable with. Many parents talk to me before lessons saying “My son/daughter doesn’t feel comfortable with the dunks.” Or “So-n-so wants to skip the dunking today.” You may ask yourself, how important is going under water?
My answer: Crucial. Kids that are more comfortable in the pool, and aren’t afraid of putting their faces in, learn to swim faster than kids who don't do it regularly. Going under water, dunking, and getting your face wet is not only important for mastering the swim strokes and techniques. It is also critical for gaining confidence as a swimmer.
Most of the time dunks are intimidating for kids, especially if it’s their first time in the pool. So what is the best way to get them comfortable? Consistency. At least once or twice every time they go in the water you should try to have your kids put their faces in. It may be tough, it may cause a few tears, but having taught thousands of kids (no exaggeration), I can safely say that putting your face in is required for kids to be 100% comfortable in the water. Until they are comfortable in the pool, swimming independently without floatation devices or bubbles is extremely difficult.
When swimming with your kids, teaching them how to swim, or putting them in swim lessons, always remember that there are always things that kids aren’t comfortable with. Going under water is very similar to riding your first bike on two wheels. Every kid eventually learns how to do it. And the only way to learn is to actually get out and try it.
You may fall down and scrape your knee a few times, and you will most definitely swallow a little pool water, but staying consistent and sticking with it will always pull through in the end. After a little practice - and a little tough love - your kids will start to love the pool.