"Wherever you go, there you are! You are the one and only person that you cannot avoid, so make every effort to understand and help that person." Jeff Krieger, M.S.
There is a huge difference between the process of trying to teach a young child how to swim and trying to help a youngster overcome their fear of water. Unlike adults, children lack many of the physical, emotional and cognitive skills and, in most cases, this lack of both life experience and skills can be seen as a tremendous disadvantage. This, however, is not the case when it comes to children and water. Yes, there is no doubt that aqua phobia does impact children and, if not acknowledged and the child helped, it can result in a life long fear of the water. Unfortunately, that is not the least of that problem or end of that story. Not only will the young aqua phobic endure the hardships of self doubt and lowered self esteem, but they remain permanently on the outside looking in. They will be the ones who will not only make excuses not to go to pool parties or camp, join friends and family at the beach and on boat rides, but, more importantly, run a higher risk of either drowning or being unable to prevent one from drowning, when they are in or around water. Furthermore, a young aqua phobic will never be able to enjoy the many physical, social and emotional benefits of an aquatic lifestyle.
The good news is that there is very effective help available for a young aqua phobic. Even better news is that as a result of their inexperience and young age, with the proper help, guidance and support; they are able to overcome their fear in a much shorter period of time than adults. As a result, they have the potential to benefit from not having to carry around some very heavy baggage with them for many, many years, as many adults do.
The one significant difference between helping young aqua phobics, as opposed to the adults, is that the group format does not work well with children. Efforts to help this population are much more successful in a one-on-one format. When helping adults, the support of other peers who suffer from aqua phobia is very therapeutic and is an important resource. When children who suffer from aqua phobia are surrounded by their peers who share this
challenge, it seems to only set up dynamics that can detract from a successful experience. Often children will become extremely withdrawn and even more anxious than they were originally.
The single most important element in a child aqua phobic's progress in the water and ultimately, feeling better about themselves, is the relationship that they establish with the SOAP Instructor. Unfortunately, most traditional swim programs do not offer the necessary resources that are required to help this unique population of children. Building trust between a child and their instructor is, without question, the highest priority of a SOAP Instructor. The patience, emotional support, and therapeutic environment that are provided by the SOAP Instructor are much more important than the stroke development during this process. Knowledge of aqua phobia and the rapport that is developed and nurtured between the instructor and the child are more significant during this process than the availability of kickboards, flippers, goggles and a list of American Red Cross certifications.
One final note to all parents who have tried unsuccessfully, with all of the best intentions, to help their child overcome their fear of water: Please do not blame yourself or your child if these efforts have failed, because this is a very unique and complicated process. For a variety of reasons, the efforts of both, parent and child, more often than not, are unsuccessful and can often make this type of a situation even worse. There is also no doubt that children are courageous, resourceful, resilient and that they can quickly turn an obstacle into a challenge and a setback into a huge success.
The SOAP Program offers your child the specific resources needed to help them overcome their fear of water. One final comment or food for thought: It is not uncommon for aqua phobia to be passed along from one generation to the
next. The SOAP Program can help any family end this unfortunate cycle of fear and enable all family members to enjoy a wide variety of aquatic activities.
"We had tried to enroll our son, beginning at age five, in swimming lessons at the local YMCA and in camp, but he would beg us to let him stop, claiming that it was boring and he just did not like it. We then read about the SOAP Program and decided to give it a try. Both my wife and I suffer from a fear of water and did not want to pass this problem along to our son. We enrolled him and what happened was truly miraculous. He not only overcame the fear and actually learned how to swim, but because he demonstrated such courage and progress, both my wife and I decided to enroll in SOAP"
Manny & Mary Ellen Garcia, Harrison, NY
You're so encouraging and trustworthy that your students can only excel. Thank you for bringing this vital skill to so many of us, and for doing so with such patience and competence.
Helping people overcome their aquatics anxieties, fears and phobias for over 30 years.