We all know how to hold our children to make them feel safe and comfortable. Some kids love being held, and others shy away from it and prefer a certain level of freedom to explore and develop independence. As our children begin swimming lessons, more likely than not, they’re going to be held in the water in some capacity and its important to understand how to support our swimmers while they’re developing water skills without preventing them from feeling their body weight or limiting their independence.
When I see parents getting in the water with their children, they tend to cradle them under their arm and against their torso like they would probably do out of the water. There’s no “wrong” way to hold your swimmer while they’re in the pool, but they’re already comfortable and aware of what their body feels like when you’re supporting them with a full cradle. Swimming lessons for infants and young children who are still developing water safety skills need to be exposed to their bodyweight in new, unfamiliar (and sometimes, uncomfortable) ways to help introduce a level of independence and eventual comfort around the water.
So as always, I’m going to walk you through some “best practices” around holding your swimmer in the water.
After getting in the pool safely, get your swimmer off your side. It’s so important for them to experience being separated from you when first learning to swim. There’s a reliance that can be formed when swimmers get too comfortable with being attached to your hip for the entirety of a lesson. Hold your swimmer in the “L’s” of your hands and make sure that they’re shoulders are at or under the surface of the water. This gives them a sense of separation we’re looking to create for them and the chance for them to feel their body weight more than they would if they were above the surface, being cradled.
It’s important to hold your swimmer with a light touch. We aren’t firmly supporting our swimmers from under their armpits, but rather keeping a loose hold around them with their weight resting gently on our hands.
The key with keeping your swimmers at a distance with a light hold is to commit to this practice. When your swimmer starts giving you feedback around an activity being practiced, comfort them without bringing them into a cradle. We want to show them that it’s safe to be independent and understand that a firm grasp isn’t necessary to keep them safe.
Try out a light hold the next time you’re in the water and see how your swimmer responds. If you get feedback, don’t give up – show them that you’re comfortable with being separated and reassure them that they’re safe.