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Swimming and the Fear Factor - NYTimes.com


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Parents are not always the best teachers, especially for children who are afraid of the water, although a parent should be present and visible to the child during formal swimming lessons.

Try to find instruction best suited to your child’s comfort zone in water. A child who is very frightened or nervous around water may do poorly in a large class; a small class — or even better, individual attention, at least for the first few lessons — is likely to be more effective. Make sure the instructor knows of your child’s reservations.

Lessons commonly begin by teaching children not to be afraid of the water. They learn to get their faces wet, blow bubbles, lift their faces up and take a breath. They then learn to float and breathe properly while doing simple strokes like the dog paddle and backstroke.

But no matter how well a child learns, no child can be made “drown-proof,” said Dr. Jeffrey Weiss, the lead author of the pediatrics academy statement. In addition to learning to swim, children should be closely supervised when in the water.

It is up to parents to establish safety rules and precautions. Rule No. 1: Never swim alone. An adult who knows how to swim should always be present and paying attention to the child, not to a book or a phone. Even older children who are accomplished swimmers should be supervised or, at least, always with a buddy who is a strong swimmer.

In general, it's never too early for a child to learn to swim.

And yes, NEVER SWIM ALONE.

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