DS, age 7, goes to a Maritime charter school in which 8 weeks of swim lessons (1/week for 8 weeks) are required in Kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. DS is in first grade. He has developed a fear of the lessons, and said that what scares him is being near "so much splashing," being afraid someone will pull on his swim noodle and he'll sink. He has become very strident in his desire not to go to swim class. He was really distraught about it on the day of class (yesterday), so I told DS he could sit on the bleachers, that he didn't HAVE to go in the water. I emailed his teacher this message, and then she emailed me back that swimming is required, like reading. So, we worked out that DS could sit by the edge of the pool near 3 girls who are very calm and don't splash a lot for most of the class and do one lap with the instructor holding him, and away from the splashing of other kids. He agreed to this when his teacher presented it to him and when she helped him call me on the phone when he said he wanted to talk to me before going to class. I reitereated the plan and asked if he had other ideas about what would make this easier for him. He didn't. So he agreed to the plan.
I asked the teacher to have him rate his anxiety when he got in the water and when he got out, and asked that they wait for the anxiety to drop to 1 out of 10 before he gets out, and said I don't really care whether he swims the lap or not, I just want the anxiety to go down, if if that means holding the ladder and standing there until the anxiety goes down. Well, at the end of class, the teacher took him to a part of the pool away from other kids and held him while he swam his lap (DS doesn't know how to swim independently). He reported anxiety of 5 when he got in the water and 10 when he got out. I shouldn't have expected the teacher to know how to talk him through waiting out the wave of anxiety until it peaks and gets small again. Not exactly good for reducing fear. His classmates acknowledged his bravery during "circle time" in school, and one even gave him a shell, a symbol of showing strength and resilience in their class culture, and encouraged him to do more. He had none of it. He was upset about having to go in the water, and upset about feeling scared of sinking, per his report to me.
Now he says he doesn't want to go to swim class anymore. I've talked to him about what's hard about this for him and would could make it easier. He mentioned that he wishes he could play marco polo with some friends, or go on the same day his best friend, who is in another class, goes. Teacher said we can't change the day he goes, but that he can play marco polo during the free swim part of class, but not during the lesson part of class.
I'd love to hear ideas about how to make lessons a little easier for him, how to work with teacher and swim instructors, and how to help him through a situation that is now fraught with angst for him. Next class is Thursday... my goal is to help him learn skills for handling situations where big feelings of fear come up. Not worried about the swimming b/c we'll spend two weeks by a lake this summer and I know he'll warm to it (he did last year). Thank you in advance for your thoughts!