How Swimming Promotes Resilience for Kids

If there is one thing the events of 2020 has shown us, it’s the value of having resilience. It’s become one of the buzzwords of the pandemic, and a trait parents have seen their children exhibit and develop through a year of uncertainty, changes to routine, and the need to restrict activities we love.

As parents, we know it hasn’t always gone smoothly, and yet kids continue to amaze us with their ability to roll with the changes they have encountered over the past year. Their natural adaptability can be strengthened by how we as parents and educators help them face challenges and teach them strategies that build resilience.

At FOSS, we also see a natural intersection between resilience-building and learning to swim. It’s one of the many ways that we see ourselves as teachers with a focus on healthy child development, in addition to teaching a specific life-improving skill.

Strategies for building resilience in kids

The basic ways we help build resilience are fundamental to raising healthy, well-adjusted kids. We look for ways to incorporate these in our swim school, and by consciously encouraging or reinforcing these principles in everyday life, in addition to modelling them, parents help kids become more resilient every day.

  • Self-awareness: When things don’t go right, anyone, kids included, can get swept up by emotion, and that can create a spiral for them and for people around them. We encourage kids to recognize what they are feeling – whether it is fear, frustration, anger or some combination – and help them move past it, which also teaches them that these emotions will pass and can be managed and turned into positives.
  • Problem solving: Resilient kids are able to identify things that aren’t working and contribute to finding solutions. If a child has an issue, we talk with them about ways to make it better. Swimming is a hard skill, and no two kids will learn the exact same way. While we don’t put them in charge, we also believe they often can play a role in solving challenges. Another important lesson is that sometimes asking for help is the way to solve a problem.
  • Healthy risk-taking: We make safety a top priority at our schools, which makes it a perfect place for kids to confront things that might feel a little scary and learn that they can come out the other side stronger and smiling.
  • Self-motivation: One thing we appreciate about learning to swim is that a lot of it takes place in the swimmer’s mind. While swimming, a kid is in a bubble where they can’t really hear or see those around them. They need to remember what they’ve been taught and think about what they are doing and will themselves to do it.
  • Coping and endurance: While our goal is to make learning to swim a fun experience, it is a physically demanding skill. We design our lessons to push kids to stick with an activity even when it’s a little bit hard and do the very best they can do.
  • Confidence: Ultimately this is what resilience relies upon: Confidence that I can get through things, confidence that I can affect the outcome of a situation and help make things better, and confidence that even if I don’t know what’s coming I have what it takes to see myself through. Swimming is a natural confidence builder, and kids emerge having learned more than they thought possible, a lesson they can apply to other parts of their life.

When swimming gets to the competitive level, it can promote resilience to an even greater degree. The fact that it is a demanding sport in which a swimmer can only affect their own performance makes self-motivation, self-improvement and drive key to the mindset of a swimmer.

But resilience starts when kids are young, and it starts at home when they learn that even when things aren’t going quite the way they were envisioned, everything will still be OK. At FOSS, we are glad we can help kids learn this important life lesson in addition to enjoying all the other great things that come with learning to swim.

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