Most of us have been through it (if your children are old enough), if you have taken your baby to an activity they really love and enjoy it and all of a sudden they are clingy don’t want to partake!
Swimming is no different! It is in fact its part of normal toddler cognitive development; the dreaded separation anxiety.
Why is happy baby who loves to swim now crying and not wanting to join in? What is separation anxiety? And why is it normal ?
Separation anxiety is a normal stage of emotional development that starts when babies begin to understand that things and people exist even when they’re not present – a concept called object permanence.
At certain stages, most babies or toddlers will show true anxiety and become upset at the prospect – or reality – of being separated from a parent. If you think about separation anxiety in evolutionary terms, it makes sense: A defenseless baby would naturally get upset over being taken away from the person who protects and cares for him.
In many ways, attitudes about babies and separations are cultural. Western countries tend to stress autonomy from a very early age. But in many other cultures, infants are rarely separated from their mother in the first year of life.
Regardless of the origins of this developmental stage, it’s frustrating for both babies and parents. The good news is that separation anxiety will pass – and you can take steps to make it more manageable. In the meantime, try to appreciate the sweetness of knowing that to your child, you’re number one.
The Water Wobbles
You may have heard your teacher refer to the ‘water wobbles’ when your child hasn’t been enjoying lessons like they used to or is having a particularly bad time with an aspect of the lesson and I wanted to go into a bit more detail about them to hopefully provide a little bit of reassurance!
The Water Wobbles is the name given to that sometimes frustrating and despairing time when children go from loving the water to clinging on to you not wanting to join in! We are here to tell you its normal and to hopefully give you some tips to get through this unscathed!
Water Wobbles normally occur during developmental milestones, such as learning to crawl, or walk and its particularly common for children to go through them when they are suffering from separation anxiety, (normally between 8 -18 months, however all children are different!!) other things that may contribute to a water wobble are a change to baby’s routine, the start of a new nursery, a big move, a holiday, teething or any other disruptions in your baby’s routine.
Classic signs of a water wobble is your child becoming upset doing certain activities during the lesson or even getting upset seeing or getting into the water, they may be very clingy and not want to come away from you and we will work with you closely to overcome this and to help you and your child feel more comfortable and to get through what feels like a lifetime of unhappiness in the water!
As parents ourselves we have experienced this first hand so not only do we know what its like to be a teacher in this situation but more importantly we know how it feels to be a parent in this situation and will fully support you through it even when the last thing you want to do it stay in the pool! We got you!
Should we give swimming a break?
Many parents may feel that they should give their swimming a break and come back to it at a later date, this may be counter productive and mean that all that early swimming confidence is in fact lost and you would have to start for scratch. There are things you can do to help keep low in the water, relax!, smile and encourage your child to join in, speak in a calming and positive manner, children learn by copying you so join in blow your bubbles, dip down under the water you could and play peek a boo most of all have fun! Holding your child in a forward facing position rather than on your hip will help them join in and feel less anxious. If you are passing little one to a teacher do it backwards so they don’t feel that anxiety of coming away, it has already happened by the time they realize and that short time they were away from you actually wasn’t bad, this will help them overcome their separation anxiety and develop self confidence.
Separation anxiety can be hard on parents too, especially if their baby gets hysterical when they leave or seems to prefer one parent over the other. You might feel guilty about leaving your baby with someone else and worry about him while you’re apart. If your baby wants your attention all the time, you may feel exhausted, frazzled, or even resentful.
It’s okay to have these emotions. Just keep reminding yourself that separation anxiety is normal and temporary: Your child is learning to trust you and is developing important skills on his way to independence. Although you may be feeling overwhelmed, keep in mind that separation anxiety is a sign of healthy attachment.
Our teachers are all trained in child development and will help to support you and your child through what can be know as the water wobbles, which in reality is a stage of development.
It can be very annoying, and very stressful when you feel like the last 6 lessons of the term have been spent with your child clinging to you for dear life and anything you do to alleviate that is met with screams and tears, and lets face it, your left feeling a little bit embarrassed feeling like you’re the only one in that situation and you may feel like your wasting your time and money when quite clearly your child isn’t having a good time! Despite all of this though its really important to stay calm, your child will pick up on any anxiety and as hard as it may be you will find that taking a deep breath and plastering a smile on will help.
It may seem like the worst thing to do in this situation but being daft and making your child laugh in this situation will help to diffuse those cries and put a smile back on their face, try blowing raspberries, doing silly faces or voices, anything that normally makes them laugh. Remind them they are in an environment that was once a lot of fun for them! Don’t worry about the others in the class or the teacher at this point, the most important thing to you is your child, so comfort them how you normally would, there’s no judging in our classes! We are one big team!
Go at their pace
Its quite easy to get a bit agitated and want to push your little ones to do something you know that they once loved, you want to prove to them that nothings changed but in our experience going at your child’s pace, whether that be keeping them on the surface during submersions or fully supporting them when they jump off the floats, is the best course of action. We are child led swim classes and will always go off your little ones reactions, we will never take an unhappy baby for an underwater swim and doing so would only make things worse so follow their lead and stick to the activities they feel comfortable with.
Its very easy to not want to step foot in a swimming pool again when your child reacts like some do during the water wobbles, however like most fears the best way to tackle this is head on, keep practising in the bath or your local pool, remember the signal we teach in class and really use that during your practice sessions so little one is reminded of it. 30 minutes a week isn’t always enough to get your child over their wobble so practicing outside of lessons and remembering to go at their pace is something we highly recommend doing.
Don’t give up!
The temptation to give up when your child isn’t enjoying lessons is all too much but remember that this is just a phase just like your child not sleeping or not eating a lot ect and they will come out the other side with a renewed love of swimming! This could last a few lessons or half the term, there’s no knowing unfortunately but take it from us, they will get through it!!
Soon enough your little Splash Stars will be back to their normal happy self and loving their lessons! Speak to the office on 01942 576 049, firstname.lastname@example.org or talk to your teacher in class.