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Mother and Child at the Beach

Summer trips to the beach, visits to camp, and days at the pool are happening frequently now that my son is three. And amid all of this fun, I find that I worry.

I don’t know how to swim.

As a result, I have a pretty strong fear of the water- oceans, pools, lakes. I’ll sit at the edge and dip my toes, or wade in waist-deep. And then breathe a sigh of relief when finally back on solid, dry land. It feels pretty silly to have such a deep, abiding fear about something that seems to come so naturally to others. It’s always been limiting. It’s even become embarrassing.

Now that I have a toddler son to tote along to these summery day trips, I’ve begun to think about how this inability impacts him. Learning to swim seems a common goal among parents of three-year-olds, but it feels a bit more urgent to me. I hope to help my son avoid those same fears that cause me such struggle, and to give him the ability to keep himself safe.

In a way, this urgent desire to teach him to swim has incited an interest for myself. Well beyond the age of easy learning, I’ve more recently been too afraid to even try. As parents, we always want to equip our small ones with the ability to care for and protect themselves, and to provide them with the potential for wide horizons and new experiences. Maybe it’s not too late to find the same for myself.

Here are some confidence-boosting tips for learning to swim as an adult:

Stay positive. Attitude is everything. Acknowledge the psychological and physical barriers of learning to swim as an adult, but don’t let them bring you down (no pun intended). There’s absolutely no reason to feel embarrassed or ashamed. When the going gets tough, keep going.

Sign up for lessons. Not only is it going to be more difficult to learn to swim on your own, but it will also be easier for you to get discouraged. Lessons will provide you with professional instruction as well as prove that you aren’t the only one trying to learn something new. If you’re feeling unsure about group lessons, look into private lessons.

Invest in the right equipment. One of the biggest steps to conquer when learning to swim is getting your face in the water. You’re going to feel much more comfortable with this if you’re keeping water out of your eyes and are able to see properly, so a decent pair of goggles are going to come in handy. A good swimsuit is also going to make you feel more comfortable and confident. Look for a suit that is form fitting and won’t slow you down, but still allows you to move freely.

Get in the water as much as you can. As with any challenge, practice makes perfect. Just being in the water as much as possible will increase your comfort level with the whole concept of swimming. Finding time to practice can be difficult as a parent, so try to schedule times each week to spend time in the water. 

Liz Moorhead

Liz Moorhead is an English teacher-turned-writer and illustrator. She paints stationery, writes for a top wedding site, and blogs at Happy Sighs between walks to the park with her two boys.