A child’s behavior is usually described as irrational, hence the random meltdowns, when battling internal struggles and developing fears. It is very common for young children, such as infants and toddlers, to develop a sudden and irrational fear of water. This article will help you determine the cause of this sudden fear of water and help your child overcome it.
A Child's Fear of Water
When children develop fears, they don’t often express it the way we’d like them to. They have trouble finding their words, even if they’re old enough to speak clearly. The irrational behavior kicks in and leaves us parents in a panic as well.
It is very common for infants and toddlers to develop a sudden fear of water, whether at bath time or by the pool. Our job as parents is to be there to comfort them and to safely guide them into overcoming their fears.
Determining The Problem
If your child starts to freak out at the sight of a bathtub or the pool you know you have a problem. The next step is determining what factors may be causing that fear. Some of the most common fears child face with water include:
- getting sucked into the drain
- getting water/shampoo in their eyes
Or maybe it’s not necessarily a fear they’ve developed. But a developmental milestone they’ve hit that has been making bath time more tricky, such as learning to stand.
Overcoming The Problem
Depending on the cause of the problem, which, depending on your child’s age you may not actually discover or understand, there are different methods of approach.
The most common parenting advice comes in handy when dealing with a child’s sudden fear of water: comfort your child.
Take It Slow
Sometimes baby steps is all you need. When our kids develop fears, they get so nervous that they need to take things slow. Slowly introducing them to what they’re afraid of we can help them overcome their fears. But we also have to keep in mind that one successful moment doesn’t completely solve the problem. It takes many successful moments, patience, and a lot of positivity to truly overcome a fear.
With my child, what really helped my daughter overcome her sudden fear of water was having her sit in the empty tub first. I let her explore the dry bathtub to get reaccustomed and she was more calm about it. When she was ready, we turned the water on together and splashed a bit before slowly massaging soap on her belly. I used my calm and happy voice, we played and we bonded. In the end, we had a successful bath.
Explain Away The Fear Of Water
Sometimes the unknown is the biggest cause of fears in the first place. Whether it’s the fear of drowning, getting sucked into the tub, slipping, or getting something in their eyes, we need to explain to them that we are always there to protect them.
If the fear of water is related to drowning, use less water in the tub and use floats for your child in the pool. I’ve never bathed my kids in a full tub of water. I let them play with a shallow tub and let it drain while I was bathing them. For the pool, there are tons of great floats and jackets. Swim lessons are also crucial for helping overcome that fear and build up confidence.
Explain that the drain only takes the dirty water through the pipes and that it is way too small to suck us in. Make it a fun story for them to be excited about instead.
Buy some slip proof mats and install them together. Show your child that these will protect them from slipping.
Teach them how to prevent getting water in their eyes. Show them that the soap/shampoo is meant for babies and will not hurt those precious little eyes.
Make It Fun
The purpose of a bath is mainly for cleaning but, with infants, it’s usually more of a time for bonding, massaging, and relaxation. Focus bath time on those relaxing and fun aspects.
Massage your child, invest in more bath toys and bubbles to keep them entertained and loving bath time. Then go ahead and actually bathe them once they’re excited. You can even try getting a fun new bath towel to get them excited about the whole routine.
Get In The Bath With Them
One of the best ways to help them overcome their fears is to get in there with them. Whether it’s you, your partner, or an older sibling, show your child by getting in the water first and then, slowly, have them join you.
Being there with them helps them to feel more comfortable. Plus you can hold them tight and cover them with kisses. Exaggerate the fun by playing splashing the water and playing with the toys and bubbles.
Try A Different Tub
Maybe you’re still bathing your baby in the infant tub and they’re ready to sit up in the bathtub. Or maybe your child is too scared of the large bathtub and would prefer a more confined space like the sink or an inflatable bathtub.
When my kids were learning to stand and cruise, I had to put them in a large utility bucket inside the tub. They felt safer to stand and I could bathe them properly.
Try A Shower Instead
With an infant afraid of the water or constantly trying to stand up, my utility bucket came in handy but getting in the shower was so much easier. Showers are less slippery, so our children can easily sit on the tile and enjoy getting bathed the way adults often do. They also don’t collect water so you remove the fear of drowning altogether.
Even now that my kids are past this stage, I like to bathe with my kids from time to time. At first, I did it to help my kids overcome their fears. But then it became less stress and anxiety to bathe my two kids under two in the shower. Sometimes it’s just more convenient to get all three of us, or even our whole family, bathed at once.
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My name is Paula and I’m a mom of two scrumptious cuties. Thanks Mommy Blog became a project for me to help guide other new moms and current moms through any of my own personal experiences and struggles. My hobbies include singing, doing jigsaw puzzles, baking, designing and trying to stay creative.
These are great tips and so helpful about identifying the problem and talking more about their fears.
I am fortunate that we never had to go through this with my boys. Actually, they’re both not ENOUGH afraid of water, so swimming lessons have been interesting…
My little girl, thankfully, never went through this phase. I hope that she doesn’t but these are great tips incase she should!
We tried all of these and none of them worked until we went to the beach! He LOVED the ocean! 😂
I like the idea of the toys you posted to help ease them into the feel of water. Playing with water, jumping in the sprinkler…Some kids have do have sensory issues as well, my friend’s son to this day does not like water, wet clothes etc. If there’s a spill,… Read more »