My 2 and half year old girl has always loved swimmming we lived abroad in Spain for most of her life so she was always been in the water, head under or not, we got her some swimming lessons, she went to the first one loved it couldn't stop talking about it showing us what she learnt.

But when she went last week she suddendly freaked out and wouldn't go in crying hysterically, I had to take her out as it's only a half hour lesson and it wasn't fair on the instructors while they were trying to help the other children.

She kept screaming 'I want to go home please mummy' so thought maybe it was because I was there, so we got her Aunty to take her again this week and the same thing happened, shes absolutely terrified, nothing happened the first week to make her so terrified so what could it be...i'm really worried...

How can she go from loving swimming to petrified shaking in one week, when she had a brilliant time the last week that she went...


  • 1
    Has anything happened in the interim that could have put her off? Is there something very different about the place you're taking her to swim now, compared to where you were taking her before? Have any major changes or incidents happened recently to her or the family? (e.g. bereavement, new sibling, new childcare, divorce, change of carer, illness or accident to her or to close friend or family member, ...)
    – A E
    Nov 22, 2014 at 20:32
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    The only way to tell is going to be to ask her. I never had a fear of water, but sometimes what was hiding under my bed got me just a bit too nervous, so I would leap onto the bed. Talk to her (sometimes indirectly is the way to go) and see what it is she is thinking about when she gets near the water -- we never know what is going on in someone else's head until they tell us. Only when you can see it through her eyes will you have any idea of what to do next. Nov 23, 2014 at 5:06

2 Answers 2


Keep taking her to swim, and don't let her see your distress at HER distress. She could misinterpret that as "OMG Mommy is scared of the water too I was RIGHT!" as opposed to the more correct "Mommy is sad that I'm scared." What worked for us, when our daughter was INSANELY FREAKED by water, was repetition and calmness. We took her to lessons as usual, even if we had to get in the water with her and just hold her while she shrieked. We played in the shallow water and let her see how much fun it could be, and then reinforced that like we were getting paid for it. "Isn't it fun to splash/blow bubbles/etc? Yay! We love water!" She screamed for the first three lessons after she developed this fear of water, and then just whined about not wanting to go, and now she's a little fish and talking about joining the local swim team. Same procedure worked with our son: he got freaked out when he was bowled tail-over-teakettle by a particularly strong wave, but we kept going out, and practiced going under the water, and he worked his way past it and is also a little fish-in-progress.

However, if it turns out to be more intractable than what our kids went through, @JeremyMiller has it right. It's hard to get logical information out of a 2-yr-old when they're scared of something, so be prepared to (a) be patient and (b) ask a LOT of questions several times. You'll have to find a way for her to tell you what's going on in her head if you want to be able to FIX it. If all else fails, a competent pediatric psychiatrist might be able to figure it out, but considering how common this is in my own circle, chances are you won't have to go there.


I have a bit of a different approach than that of @Valkyrie, and want to add that the answer depends on your parenting philosophy. I do wholeheartedly agree with asking her!

I don't know why your daughter developed a sudden fear of water. I presume she was accustomed to salt water before, and that her swim lessons are in chlorinated water? Maybe that's what happened? Chlorinated water is more unpleasant in eyes/nose/etc. than sea water.

I would not push her at all. Empathizing with our child's distress is part of parenting (I believe). Encouraging children to overcome fears is another big part of parenting.

If you take her to the beach on a warm day and she loves it, then you will know she's not afraid of the water per se. If you take her to a different pool, maybe less crowded, and just play with her, and she is hesitant but ok, then you have narrowed it down again. Keep working on narrowing it down. In the process, you might help her to deal with that fear she experienced.

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    Good insight about the chlorine. My son loves swimming... until one day we visited a saltwater pool, and ever since then he finds our regular (chlorinated) pool to be much less appealing!
    – Acire
    Nov 25, 2014 at 11:57
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    I refused to participate in swim lessons when I was young because the instructor insisted we swam competition style with our face in the water and I did not like chlorine on my face.
    – Wayne
    Nov 25, 2014 at 16:46
  • This is not an answer... Aug 31, 2018 at 11:14

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