Why does my child cry when swimming?

Sometimes it can be obvious why a child cries when they go to swimming lessons, often they tell us. However, many children can turn up to their first few lessons and just scream!

Firstly, as a parent/guardian, do not blame yourself! The most common question I get from parent/guardians is “Is my child the worst you have ever taught?”…the answer is no, over the years of teaching I have been spat on, hit, kicked in the stomach, pinched, had swimming bricks thrown at me and more! On all of these occasions there has been a reason why these behaviours were displayed, and all resolved! The reason underlying these issues is often confidence. Remember, do not give up!

Here are a few reasons why your child cries at swimming lessons:

  • Something new / change
  • Confidence / extreme fear
  • Attention seeking behaviour
  • Tiredness
  • Parental separation

Something new / change

For a child going somewhere new with new people can be a nervous or daunting experience, quite like their first day at nursery, playgroup or school! I always advise my clients to talk to their children about their upcoming swimming lessons; who their teacher is, where the lessons are, what we do in the lessons, what they would like to do. The more information you can tell us about your child/ren, for example, learning style, favourite music/television programmes, the better we can be prepared to incorporate and accommodate these into their lessons. Easing the transition is very important.

If you give up easily, the issue will not go away and no matter where you swim or at what point in life, if they have a fear or do not like change then being consistent is best. Allow your child to build a trusting bond with their teacher, trust the teacher’s judgement – we are good at knowing a child’s boundaries and what we can encourage them to do. Fundamentally, unless they attend lessons, we can’t resolve!

The more frequently a child encounters the swimming pool environment the more familiar they are and become more relaxed with their surroundings.


Often a swimmer’s confidence can grow in a matter of a few lessons, other times confidence can develop over a couple of months. Patience and consistency are important.

If you, as a parent/guardian, are not confident with swimming, try not to express this in front of your children as it can transfer on them! Trusting the swimming teacher is vital to allow them to teach your child correctly and safely – if it makes you nervous watching them swim underwater/jump/dive feel free to look away!

Children who have had a ‘near drowning’ experience prior to taking formal swimming lessons can develop extreme fear – if this is the case you must tell the new swimming teacher about the experience. One to one sessions are often best to address this fear to allow the child to have a calmer environment and develop a strong trust with the teacher.


Always allow a term of lessons for crying children and then re-evaluate after that. Some will cry for a minute; others can cry for a number of weeks. You have to be more stubborn than them! I understand hearing the “I want mummy/daddy” can be hard to ignore and make you feel like you just want to get them out and give them a cuddle! Try to avoid this as it can prolong the issue. Ensure all children go to the toilet before they swim so that we know any “I need the toilet” excuses are just a reason to get out rather than a genuine need.

Spending two or three minutes at bath time, practising washing their hair, kicking their legs or blowing bubbles can really help a child reduce/relieve their fear/anxiety. Such activity helps them to associate fun with water. I am not suggesting here to turn their bath time into another lesson, just a couple of minutes each bath time can be sufficient!

At Core Aquatics, we specialise in small groups; such an intimate environment can help swimmers to progress more quickly and provides an ideal environment for confident and quicker progression.

Finally, if you have a teacher that takes the time to understand the issue/reasons for crying, offers suggestions for practice at home, is patient and talks to the child rather than joining in a shouting match then you’re onto a winner!

If your child cries at their swimming lesson and you’d like a team who can handle them at their worst, as well as bring out their best. Contact us today on 07505 065184 or email hello@coreaquatics.co.uk


Why does my child cry when swimming?