My daughter has always been scared of the water. She doesn’t like the pool or beach at all, even fountains (I think the only water she likes is the water from the faucet when she’s taking a bath). No matter how we tried to entertain her (give her a toy, show her how much we’re enjoying it, etc.) while in it, she would always be anxious, would cling to me and fuss so our pool or beach time would always be a quick one.
It was Saturday afternoon, both kids woke up early from their nap and already had their snack. There’s a pool party in our apartment complex and we didn’t have anything else to do so we decided to join the fun. What I thought would be another quick trip to the pool ended up with me having to bribe my daughter with a promise of snack just to get her to go home. How did we do it?
A toy my daughter REALLY loves – My daughter has always been fascinated with balls even when she was a baby. She actually had a video where she’s laughing hysterically while my husband was dribbling a ball to the point that she lost balance. On our way to the pool, we saw a pink beach ball and I remembered how much she had fun in their Summer Kick-off Party at school because of one; so I immediately got it and gave it to her and then we went straight to the kiddie pool. It took several baby steps to get her comfortable in the water. She started with not wanting to play with the ball at all to throwing it but wanting me to get it for her to wanting to get it by herself.
I feel like the beach ball played a big role here because it distracted her. It distracted her from the fact that she’s in the pool, away from me, and made her focus on playing with it until she realized that the pool isn’t scary anymore.
Constant encouragement and recognition – We constantly encouraged her to play with the ball, play with the water, and sit and relax in the pool. Each time she does something (from walking in the water alone to allowing us to help her sit in the water to deciding she wants to sit in the water all by herself and playing with it) we would celebrate with her and she actually loved it. She would say “Yehey!” (Yay!) every time we would tell her that she’s doing a great job. And I think that kept her motivated to keep trying harder.
Letting go and trusting her – This was more for me than for my daughter. The first time she wanted to get the ball by herself, I nervously stood up because I was worried she might trip which could cause her to get more anxious in the water. My husband stopped me and told me to let her do it by herself; I did (but I was actually ready to jump in the moment she trips). But she did not. I learned that if I let go and trust that she could, she would surprise me and actually do it.
And you know what the best part was? When I told her that it’s time to go home she said “Di pa, Mommy!” (Not yet, Mommy). That same night when I asked her if she wants to go back to the pool, she said “Yes!” with a giggle of excitement!
What has worked for you to help your child overcome a fear? I would love to hear your thoughts about it.