Summer is here! And that means trips to the pool. And if you’re the parent of a non-swimmer, you know how very non-relaxing that can be. It sounds simple enough: sign them up for swim lessons. But for many parents, this can go terribly wrong. How can you get your kids in the water without putting stress on both you and your child? Eddie Beach, who has been teaching swim lessons at the YMCA in Cornelius, North Carolina for over 17 years, gives these three essential tips for parents:

  1. Work on your own comfort level first. Kids can sense when a parent is feeling unsure around the water.
  2. Give your child as much low-stress exposure to the water as possible. Make sure she is around other kids having fun in the water, and can see how enjoyable it is before she tries it herself.
  3. Make sure you get a recommendation for a swim class from someone you trust. Both you and your child need to observe the class first. This will help prepare both of you on what to expect.

So you do all the right things, sign your child up, get in the water, only to find that he is petrified. Then what? “If a child is afraid of the water, I always tell parents to try to talk to their child and figure out what it is that he is afraid of,” says Beach. “Is it not being able to see under the water? Goggles can help. Is it swallowing water or getting water up his nose? Many swim teachers encourage kids to hum under the water to prevent this. Is she afraid of not being able to get a breath? Sometimes children inhale repeatedly without exhaling because of this fear. A primal skill kids can work on to improve in this area is blowing bubbles.” Instructors have the tricks of the trade – so ask your child’s teacher what to do for any specific issue you encounter.

Parents may wonder when the right age is to begin teaching a child to swim. And the answer is any age. Kids need to feel comfortable in water before they can be expected to swim. And parents can begin that journey with children as young as infants. Parent and child swim classes are a great way to get started together. Just getting in the pool together as a family and splashing around can go a big way towards taking your first steps to raising young swimmers.

At home, kids can practice blowing bubbles and using goggles in the bath. Even time outside with the water hose is time spent getting kids comfortable with water.Zero-depth entry pools are great for non-swimmers because the gradual slope offers a nice way to ease into water that they feel comfortable with.

Experts agree that the key to swimming success at any age is safe exposure to the water. The more time you and your child spend in the water together having fun, the more comfortable she will be.