Teach Your Child to Swim

Navigating Neva! Neva Nicole here. Today's episode is: Episode 6.

I’m going to share with you ‘how to pick a swim instructor’ and that's because I want no drownings, I want a zero drowning summer, and I want you to learn to swim and I want you to be safe, I want each child to be safe.

I’m an aquatic professional with 20 plus years experience in my industry; check out my bio.

From sitting on the stands and lifeguarding to certifying lifeguards and running a pool, I’ve seen a lot and I’m here to share with you my opinion and the research and resources that are already out there.

I want you to stay safe and enjoy the summer; listen up and have a happy and healthy summer.

Always remember, your safety comes first. 

So, today I’m going to talk about how you can pick a swim instructor. 

This seems to be a big issue: there are lots of swim instructors everywhere, there's really expensive swim instructors, there's really inexperienced swim instructors, and then there's a lot of people that don't even know where to go to get their swim instructors.

So before I talk about where we go to find our teachers, I want to talk about some things that some other teachers have said. So, on a group of swim instructors, I asked other swim instructors what it is they look for in a swim instructor, if they were picking a swim instructor for themselves or for their child.

And these are just responses I got from other teachers who teach. 

So Jane said that it depends on the age and the stage. So for little ones she wants her instructor to be kind and responsive, that would be the most important thing for her. She doesn't really care if they're super knowledgeable as long as they can relate to her child as an individual. The worst thing would be if they put them off for life.

Russell said, he wants to make sure that they can nurture and develop a love and respect for the water for their child; will they treat his child with respect and develop them? Will they help to achieve the most they can in the pool, can they control the class and also the swim time so that the lesson is structured and planned well?

Tim says, do they have the ability to adapt to the individual need of the child? That’s the teacher that inspires and motivates the children or the adult to succeed.

Kim said, she wants someone who uses positive language, builds on what the child is doing right, rather than picks out the child's faults, a teacher that gives age-appropriate instructions. Younger children respond better to clearer instructions rather than complex instructions which work better for older children.

So these are great instructions, I agree with all of them. 

I had to pick a teacher from my son once and when I did this, I picked who I thought was the very best. I actually picked more than one instructor, I got my son a female instructor and then I also got my son a male instructor. My son did very good with males.

When he had a babysitter, or if he was in the nursery he responded better to males, so that is definitely something to consider when you are looking for an instructor for your child. Does your instructor do better with males or does your child do better with females. So, my personal questions would be-- do you need a male teacher or do you need a female teacher, and what is their teaching style-- not everybody has the same style. How long have they been teaching? But regardless of these questions-- these personal questions -- I would say across the board, when you're picking a swim instructor, make sure that your instructor is certified-- they should have a current certification and there's lots of certifications out there. So when you pick an instructor, pick a certified instructor.

You can have an American Red Cross instructor, you can have a YMCA instructor, and you can have a Star Guard instructor. Just ask them if they're certified and they'll show you. 

There’s a lot more, I only named a few; there’s a lot of them. But a lifeguard isn't a swim instructor-- a lifeguard is a lifeguard and you want a lifeguard, especially if there's group lessons. A lot of the times if you're doing private lessons, or one-on-one lessons a lifeguard may be recommended but they're not required. But if you're doing group lessons I definitely would strongly encourage that you guys have a lifeguard there.

You want your swim instructor to be certified in CPR. If they're not a lifeguard, they could be CPR certified and they could be lifeguard certified, they could be CPR certified and they could have additional water safety certifications.

You would also want to know if your instructor is insured-- this is a good question to ask if they're at a facility or an organization. They could be covered by the facility or the organization's insurance, but if they are a mobile instructor or if they're teaching at their own home-- are they insured?

And then, further down the line you want to make sure that your instructor vibes right with your child, or maybe the lessons are not for your child, maybe the lessons are for you.

How do you respond to the instructor, or how does your child respond to the instructor?

Does the instructor like their job? Do they enjoy what they're doing? If they don't enjoy what they're doing, then you're not going to enjoy the lesson, or your child is not going to enjoy the lesson.

You want your lessons to be at a convenient time for you. If it's at the end of a long day and you just got off work, maybe this works well for your schedule. If you're a morning person, maybe it doesn't; maybe if you're a morning person you'd rather have your lessons before you go into work. So these are things to consider if you're a parent and you're getting your lessons for your child. 

Do not schedule them during a nap time, do not schedule them during an eating or feeding time-- you want to work around your child's schedule.

You want lessons that meet your goals, in your philosophies. So this is where I’m going to get into infant swimming research. So, infant swimming research and there's some other survival instructions out there. 

I’m not saying they're wrong, I’m not saying they're right. They are right for the right people and they're wrong for other people. So these are things you want to talk about and decide if they're right for you and they might be right for you and wrong for me and they might be right for me and wrong for you. 

So you want to look at the teaching style of who is teaching for you and then you want to pick accordingly. I taught myself how to swim which is why the next episode exists. When I was little, I shared with you guys back in episode 3 that I fell to the bottom of the pool, and when I fell to the bottom of the pool, my parents then decided that I needed swimming lessons. 

So we went down to the local college and at that time I’m not sure if this is what really happened or not. I was 3 I believe what occurred is: they lined me up on the side of the pool with other peers my age and when it was my turn, I was pushed into the water, this is in the 80s and I was supposed to swim to the instructor.

So obviously after I had just fallen to the bottom of the pool, swimming to the instructor is not what occurred. I was not happy about this and then I decided I wasn't going to learn to swim. 

So from the age of 3, 4, 5, 6 I refused to learn to swim. I learned to swim on my own when I was 7 and as a result of this, my method for teaching swimming lessons is not to push the kid into the water.

Now, having said that I do believe in the ‘cry now’ the child can cry now so that the mother does not cry later. I am an advocate for that: I do believe that the child can cry today and they can cry tomorrow and on the third lesson they won't cry. Sometimes it does take a child, especially a preschool child a few days to adapt to their surroundings or to the environment or to the teacher. I am totally fine with the kid hanging onto my back like a monkey and crying, I’m totally fine with the mom getting in and doing what we do, I am totally fine with the mom sitting on the edge of the pool with the child as he observes. 

I’m also fine with telling the Mom: maybe that child is not good for group lessons, maybe he would have a better fit in a private lesson. And there are times when you need private lessons and there are times when you need group lessons. So, with that being said we're not here to talk about whether your child needs group lessons or private lessons today, we'll leave that up to your instructor. Today, we're talking about how to pick your swim instructor. So, I feel we've done a really good job on telling you how to pick your swim instructor. So, I do want to go back over how we pick our swim instructor, so I feel I got a little off track there.

How we find our swim instructor is: throughout the entire United States, most cities have a YMCA or a JVC and if you go to your local YMCA or JVC, hopefully you have a pool. Not all of them do, some of them do. And if they have a pool they usually, offer swim lessons and this is where you can find a swim instructor. If you don't have a pool, usually you have a local club and a club will offer swim lessons or you have a swim school, and a swim school will offer lessons. 

A cheaper route is a city or a county recreation apartment will offer swim lessons, and if these are not options, you can always do a Google search and find local swim instructors. You might find a mobile swim instructor or maybe someone offers them at their home, and you can go to them or they can come to you. And the American Red Cross has swim instructors and with those you can type in a ‘swimming’ and there you'll find a swim instructor in your area.

But, while we're on the topic of picking a swim instructor, I do want to make sure that when you do find your swim instructor and you pick the right one for you, that you are getting the most out of your swim instructor. 

And not so much for your money, it is important that you're getting what you paid for and that you're happy and that your child's happy, but I do want to talk about some things that happened in my life. First, I’ll tell you why I didn't teach my son to swim. First I did and I just want to put this out there so that if you're upset with yourself or confused, that you understand the learning process and how things work. 

So, when my son was five months old, I put him in the water. The American Academy for Pediatricians recommends that children do not go into a public pool until they are five months old. So I did not put my son into a public pool until he was five months old, and when he was five months old I took him to a public pool. 

And then they do not recommend but they didn't recommend group lessons until they were six months old. So the American Red Cross starts their swim lessons at six months old. Now they recommend swimming at the age of one and it's helpful for them it's helpful for the developmental reasons, they can learn to swim, it's not harmful it doesn't hurt them and you would want a certified instructor and things of that nature. But there's water safety things that should be taught. 

I’m gonna speak for myself because I am a certified American Red Cross water safety instructor and it is important that your child learns to bob and glide, and bob and swim. And if you wonder what a ‘bob’ is I’m going to tell you: so a bob is when you go under water and then you pop back up. So the best example I can give you is, if you put a ball in your hand and you pull it under the water if you let it go it pops right back up. So, if a kid goes underwater, we want to go underwater we want to exhale and then we want to come up. So when we're in swim lessons we do bobs-- we go underwater we exhale we come up, we get a gulp of air, we go back under, we exhale all our bubbles. Exhale come up, inhale go under and come up; get a breath go under. And you know on day one we do one, and I hold your hand and on day two we do two and then we do three and then we do five and then we do ten. 

So what we're doing is we're helping build your cardio, because swimming is a cardio sport just like riding your bike or running, so I wouldn't want you to hold your breath. 

So the concept here is: you're going to bop you're going to go underwater, you're going to hit the floor and you're going to jump up grab that air that you need. So what I want to do is, I want to develop this so that you go from a bob to a bob, you're going to push off the ground and you're going to glide and then you can you can bob and then you can swim. So what you're doing is, you're going from a up-and -down vertical position to a horizontal position on the water.

 I’m sure you're wondering why I’m telling you this and I’m going to get to that. So I scout my son, I had swim lessons and then I had a baby and he was little. My son, I went to the bathroom and I came back and the lifeguard has jumped in to save my son. And I’m like ‘oh good, I’m glad we're here with seven lifeguards at the pool and the lifeguard jumped in and saved my son who just had swimming lessons and I’m a lifeguard and I’m a lifeguard instructor, and thank God my son's being saved by a lifeguard’.

Anyhow, what happened? Well what happened was-- my son was in a zero depth pool. I’m sure you're familiar with them, there's lots of them. He was bobbing and he could stand and he was bobbing, he was bobbing, he was bobbing and then he was no longer standing. He was bobbing but he was not swimming, she was bobbing and now he was an actively distressed child and the lifeguard saw him -- not the lifeguard right there-- of course because that's usually not how it works. The lifeguard across the pool saw him, notified the guard that was right there, and the guard jumped in and grabbed him and he was fine there. It was not a near drowning experience like my near-drowning experience. He was good. The point is: he didn't go from a bobbing or a vertical position to a horizontal swimming position, he went from a bobbing position to a ‘oh no he needs help’ position. 

So, when you get swim lessons, inside the lesson you would want to bob and glide, bob and swim so you want to go from a vertical to a horizontal position. You obviously would also want to be able to climb in and out of the water, you would want to be able to jump in, and climb out, jump in swim back to the wall climb out. So these are developmental things that you're looking for in your lesson, so it might look like your child's just having fun, they're just jumping in jumping out what a silly thing to do. 

But you're building upon muscle memory and work, and you're helping them be safe in on and around the water. You want to enter the water, exit the water, you want to bob, you want to bob some more,  you want to bob and glide, you want to bob and have a supportive kick, so that if you can't hit the bottom you can have a kick that gives you enough power, so that you can glide and swim away.

So that's a big one. And of course, in the lower levels everybody does swim, float swim. I know a lot of people sell this, but little kids don't do rotary breathing because their body just doesn't allow it. So they're gonna swim and then they're going to roll over, they're going to breathe and then they're going to roll back over, and float. So the YMCA has a program called ‘Safety around water’ or the YMCA has a program known as ‘saw’ and that's what they focus on. They focus on—swim-float-swim.

So they didn't steal anybody else's idea: this idea has been along around for a long time and that's just what you learn when you're little, and then as you grow and adapt more to the water we can teach you more strokes and you can do more things. But swim float swim is your basic-- that you build upon.

So those are good water safety things, if you guys have more questions of course. You can always ask me-- you can email me, you can hit me up on Facebook, you can email me at navigatingneva@gmail.com. 

We can have more episodes that talk about swim lessons, we can talk about whatever you'd like. I’m here to talk and chat. So what I was trying to tell you about my son is, he was in the water when he was a baby and I used to take him to my water baby classes all the time. And then when he was three-- as a lot of three-year-olds do, he just became fearful. He didn't have an experience, mean he did after swimming lessons but he didn't initially have an experience to make him fearful. He just at three was fearful and I did everything I could to help him overcome it. And he just grew. At four--he wasn't afraid anymore.

So sometimes, it's just time. Maybe this summer, your kid doesn't want to swim and that's okay. You can let them be comfortable in the water at the level they feel comfortable with and next summer you can you can do it again. So I wouldn't push them when they're not ready, I would move forward when they are ready and when they're not ready, let them feel comfortable at that level and then and then move forward when they are ready.

His little brother was never afraid-- he would live at the bottom of the pool, he lived under water, I couldn't keep him on the surface. He would just swim underwater all the time, that's where he wanted to be -- so that's a good thing. But not every kid is like that-- his brother wasn't. And he was in the pool from five months on, so sometimes people are afraid and sometimes people aren't.

So always nurture them, do whatever you can. My big things that I want to tell you are: if you're trying to put your child in swim lessons stay away from ‘inner tubes’ and ‘swimmies’. Inner tubes and swimmies can pop and then your child is going to sink, they're not that supportive they also keep them in a vertical position. A vertical position is not helpful when you show up to your swim instructor to teach them to swim. You also don't want to shield their face all the time in the bathtub. I do agree no one wants soap in their eyes. However, you don't want to never have water trickle down their face because then when we're in the pool we're going to have to overcome that boundary, to get them to swim. If they're already comfortable with that, that's a step we don't have to overcome. So you can work on that at home: you can work on getting water in your face, you can work on getting water on your cheeks, you can work on getting water on your eyebrows, water on your earlobes, you can work on laying down in the bathtub, and floating; you can work on pointing your toes and kicking, you can do all of these exploratory things in the bathtub before you come to the pool. 

And then in the pool you can use ‘floaties’-- preferably not inflatable floaties, but if you do choose to use floaties, make sure you only use them half of the time. I say this because they give you a false sense of buoyancy, and what does that mean: that means that they believe that is their level of buoyancy when in fact it's not. So if you were to fall into the water, you're going to believe that is where you float, when that is in fact not where you float. 

So you fall in, you expect to float at this level, you panic, and that's not where you float. So use them for half the time, then take them off whether that's 15 minutes on, 15 minutes off ,that's fine; whether that's five minutes on, five minutes off, five minutes on, five minutes off. However you want to do it, just let them know that that is not their true feeling of floating. It is a great way to let them feel what floating is, but that is not their natural level of buoyancy. 

I’m  hesitant to share you, I guess it's not a sad story; so now that I've hesitated I'll share the story with you and I got permission to share the story. So since I want no drownings, I'll share this story so that maybe this will not be your experience: I have a friend, they went swimming and their child was in their puddle jumper, which they're great if you use them half the time, because we don't want to create a false sense of buoyancy. They all got out of the pool and they took the puddle jumper off because they were going to leave, and they dried everybody off and the little boy fell back into the pool, and then the mom and the dad found him in the pool and then they spent the night at the hospital that night. And he's fine, he's okay. In our learn, our learning points from that are: number one -- thank goodness people were around. I just so hope this happens to no one, it's so scary guys. Number two -- call 911 right away. When you exit the pool, have all your children accounted for-- hold their hand, don't let them walk back over to the pool, don't let them grab anything from the pool, walk away from the pool, teach them.

I don't want you to instill fear because the pool is not bad. I’ve had children that are terrified of the pool and I can't teach your child to swim, if they're terrified of the pool. It doesn't work like that. So don't teach fear, teach respect. I want them to respect the water and I want you to be with your child. But that floaty gives a false sense of buoyancy and they're gonna think that that's how they swim and that's not how they swim. Learn CPR -- because CPR saves lives and you know hug your little ones tight and always check the pool before you leave.

I want no drownings this summer guys, stay safe.

This is Navigating Neva-- this is your host, Neva Nicole I am logging off. I hope you all stay safe, have a happy and healthy summer. Our next episode is on ‘teaching yourself how to swim’. 

Have a fabulous fabulous summer! Goodbye.