Noooooooooo! Mommy! Noooooooo! I don’t want to get in. I’m not getting in! No water! No pool!
I gathered my most encouraging voice and said, but look at everyone else having so much fun! My son didn’t care. He refused to go in like military personnel are trained to evade capture. It would take a while, but I was about to find out why some highly sensitive children don’t like the pool.
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I mustered a weak smile to the pool moms and said, “I guess he doesn’t like the water yet…” And then we steered clear of the pool most of that year.
The next year, my son was three and excited about taking swimming lessons. His older brother was taking them, so I thought the sibling peer pressure would pull him through. Nope. On the first day, he looked the swim coach square in the eye and said, “I’m not getting in!” and ran straight to the playground.
I never forced him into the water and the swim coach applauded my decision. I chose to spend as much time as it took to show him how much fun playing in and with water could be. And I’m glad that was my decision because later I learned the secret reason he refused to get in the pool!
Highly Sensitive Children Don’t Like the Pool – Before the Pool
Many highly sensitive children don’t like the pool, simply because they don’t like the feel of their swimsuit! For boys, the sensation of swim trunks collecting air and water and being heavy when wet can be really uncomfortable. Also, rashguards may pose a similarly uncomfortable sensation. On the flip side, boys who don’t wear rashguards may find the sensation of not wearing a shirt uncomfortable. Similarly, girls may not like the exposure of their stomach if they wear a two piece suit.
Many highly sensitive children don’t like the pool because they don’t like the sensation of having wet hair. A simple bathing cap can help with this. Although other children feel that the bathing cap is uncomfortable.
The sensation of water in their eyes or on their face may be unpleasant for some highly sensitive children. Goggles definitely help if they don’t like water in their eyes. My son felt the elastic pulling his hair was painful, but I found the perfect pair of goggles to solve that! And my other son still didn’t love goggles, but he wanted a mask and a snorkel! We haven’t tried it – but they even now make a full face mask with snorkel. It worked like a charm – now my little one who used to hate putting his face in the water is now diving under water to collect toys.
Highly Sensitive Children Don’t Like The Pool – At the Pool
First, think about the pool environment. It may be crowded and loud with people talking, kids squealing, and music playing. People may be moving unpredictably – jumping up out of the water or diving in. The body of water itself may appear vast and frightening to your highly sensitive child.
The pool is full of new and different smells that can be overwhelming for some children. Think of the strong smell of sunscreen and how many different brands are there. Then add in the overwhelming smell of chlorine and other chemicals in the water.
Walking around the pool feels different on tiny feet. The pool deck is hot and rough. Some children may enjoy the sensation, but others may find it difficult, and possibly painful.
People at the pool look different and are dressed differently. Most ladies have on big sunglasses and many wear big, floppy hats.
Highly Sensitive Children Don’t Like The Pool – In the Pool
For some children, discerning where their body is in space (sense of proprioception) can be challenging. When they are in the water, their body moves differently. This can be even more difficult and even frightening.
The water can feel cold on their skin. I’ve even had parents tell me that their children disliked the sensation of “pruny” fingers and toes so much that they would try to avoid the water.
How Do I Help My Child Enjoy Water Play?
My son and I spent two summers playing in and with water in many different ways to get him enjoying water play. Some of our favorite activities included a baby pool, bathtub play, a water table, slip n’ slides, fun sprinklers, wiggly sprinklers, water balloons, the garden hose, the river bank, shower play, and eventually splash pads and water parks. During this time, we would go to the baby pool off and on just to play with toys.
As we spent time during these summers playing – I watched him very carefully. I began to notice that whenever we played in a baby pool on our back deck, he would rip off his swim trunks. And this is what I discovered…
A friend suggested that it might not be the water as much as his swim trunks. He was wearing regular style swim trunks. She suggested that I get a jammers style swimsuit for him. This was the most awesome discovery I made that summer!
There’s Hope if Your Highly Sensitive Child Doesn’t Love the Pool, Yet
When highly sensitive children don’t like the pool, there are so many things to take into account. Being in and around the water is such a different sensory experience for all of us and it can be overwhelmingly so for many highly sensitive children.
First and foremost, teach your highly sensitive child that water play is fun! If it isn’t fun for your child, watch carefully to see if any of these things might be the cause of her discomfort in the water and see if you can address the cause directly.
Now my son starts asking each February if it’s time to go to the pool! He’s taken his swimming lessons and is now a proud member of the junior swim team!
There is hope. Have patience and know that there is nothing wrong with your highly sensitive child. He’s exactly who he should be – he just feels things more deeply than many other people. Your child isn’t trying to give you a hard time; he’s having a hard time. So just be patient and help him through it!