One day many years ago I was asked by a big publishing company in Denmark to write a book about baby swimming. They wanted me to write a guide book for parents on baby swimming.
For me a dream came true. I had been working with parents and their babies in the water for many years and also educating teachers. I knew that there was a need for more knowledge. I also had a strong feeling that it would empower parents and teachers.
With more knowledge before they started swim classes they would gain more. And I hoped more parents would take to the water and swim with their babies. So I wrote the book, it was published and became a popular guide book among parents and swim teachers.
The hunch payed off, parents started much better prepared and questions evolved from basic: “How do I get my child to...”, to become more specific and with a desire to learn more and to do it right. And baby swimming grew even more popular.
One day I realized that something was wrong. Very wrong. Some babies were not happy but rather feeling stressed and uneasy. Viewing it from their perspective our focus had grown more skill based with a tactical approach.
The babies had become test-dummies for us to try “things” with and we wanted them to be happy. The exercises had become the goal of being in the water.
With the best intentions children had become projects, and exercises was done to the child not with. Becoming someone else project is not only harmful to a persons self-esteem but also to the relationship and the desire to explore and learn may often be lost. Being played with, rather than together with left many children feeling alone, stressed and unhappy.
But they cooperate or adapt and they learn how life and relationships work by experiencing it.
Because some babies were not happy, many parents dropped out of swimming when their little ones didn’t seem to enjoy it anymore. The babies who appeared uneasy or unhappy - some clinging to their parents - were trying to tell us something beyond, “I don’t like swimming”, but we didn’t pick up on it.
They tried to tell us that the way this activity was done felt bad and was to some degree harmful for their development of a healthy self and the relationship.
Once I recognized the problem, I changed my approach. I researched and read everything I could find on baby development and rewrote our entire curriculum. Rather than emphasizing skills and exercises, my swim program now focused on how babies learn – in the context of a relationship.
It became about the babies and their parents’ emotional experience: how babies’ communicate and their readiness and the parents’ responsiveness to their baby.
There was a need for a new book too. Many of the old books on activities with babies and children you could easily take out baby or child and move in a dough or a thing. I wondered how our view on children had become this way?
Because I had begun to see the effects short and long term it became important to write a new book. When published it had the child as an equal partner in the activity as well as in the relationship.
And ever since that day focus has been on the quality of the relationship. Parents where guided and supported. They were empowered and under their responsible leadership their children loved to explore and learn.
Together they grew and enjoyed more than ever. With the new approach and the new guide book parents where happy to experience that there are few activities in life that can foster growth and relationships as well as swimming with their baby can.
When I was asked to write the book in English, I knew it would not be easy, but to share this approach and to hopefully inspire more parents and caregivers to get into the water, with their baby, and swim, was a high motivator for me.
Now the book is ready to meet its readers – I hope it will bring many happy splashes to families around the world. And imagine if every family get to foster healthier and happier relationships through the gift of swim.
Internationally renowned family therapist and author J. Juul call’s the book brilliant!
“This book is a brilliant example of how instructive and uplifting it can be when experienced, dedicated people share their wisdom. On the one hand, it will teach you everything worth knowing about baby swimming, but at the same time you can learn a lot from it about being an attentive and present parent.”
—Jesper Juul, Danish internationally renowned family therapist and author