Friday, January 15, 2016

The Recovered Aquaphobe

Tricky vs Water has been an ongoing saga around these parts, and if you've been around for a while you'd know he had a full blown phobia of water on his face or head - it's not that he just didn't like it, he was terrified. But I'm ecstatic to say he has now overcome it. Insert jazz hands, pom poms, confetti and a lazer light show here.

I have had a heap of people ask what we did to help him through, so I thought I'd share our successes (and many failures) with you here. All kids are different, which is really freakin' frustrating when you're looking for answers because dammit sometimes an easy solution would be awesome. But this is what we tried and the end results, seen in the video below (a #mumbrag video if ever there was!!), mean we couldn't be more proud of our guy. 

Hair Washing 

THEN: Hair washing was a nightmare for everyone involved. Going on hours of research (i.e. the articles popping up all over the web about "I stopped washing my hair three years ago and it's never been healthier"), I figured that skipping hair washing wouldn't be such a bad thing for a while. It's not like he was playing in mud every day.

Hair and Face Wash fails:
  • Asking him to lean his head back - as soon as the water would touch him, he'd instinctively coil inward making the water go straight over his face and eyes resulting in a meltdown
  • Letting him do it himself - big fat nope. He'd quite happily lather the shampoo but rinsing it out himself was not happening.
  • Letting him choose a special shampoo - made no difference at all! 
  • Using every single contraption made for "tearless" hairwashing. Nope, nope, nope. The the fancy hats, the rings, you name it. Tried it. Didn't work for him. 
  • Yelling. Yeah, not proud of myself, but I'll admit that I did it in a moment (or two or three or four...) of pure frustration. Surprise, surprise, this didn't work.
Hair and Face Wash wins:
  • Playfully splashing or tipping water on the back of his head no where near his face. 
  • Using a progressively wetter wash cloth to wash his face - we started out as a bit of a "spit and polish" family and over time progressed to damp cloths then wet cloths as he could tolerate it. 
  • Covering his eyes with a wash cloth himself - holding it himself gave him a feeling of control that he was desperate for. I would still need to be really careful with where I was pouring water, but his fear diminished massively. 
  • Laying on the laundry bench and hanging his head in to the sink - it hurt his neck a little, but he would keep his head completely back in the position 
  • Laying in a very shallow bath, his head resting on an old two litre bottle as a cushion - like the laundry sink, he'd leave his head right back and the water wouldn't touch his face
  • Letting him wash my hair
  • Reward chart - this was only brought in at the very end when he was already comfortable with getting his hair washed but still needed a little encouragement to let me do it daily after swimming lessons when he was stinking of chlorine! It would not have worked earlier because no amount of stickers can calm a phobia. Not even holographic dinosaur ones. 
NOW: We can wash Tricky's face and hair without any issues. He still doesn't like water in his eyes (does anyone?), but now that he isn't scared, he will calmly hold his head back until everything is finished. If any drips down his face he'll brush away or ask for a cloth if there is a lot. Champion.


THEN: Tricks would happily paddle in a wading pool without dramas, and run along the shoreline in a sheltered cove, but getting wet above waist level happened for the FIRST time ever in January last year! We were so proud. 

Swim Wins:
  • GOGGLES - I went straight to a "good" brand of goggles rather than buying something cheap that would let water in. I wanted these babies to be water tight or he'd never trust another pair. I went with Zoggs and so far, so good. 
  • Floaties - we got a proper floatie for his back but just some cheapie ones for his arms, and he liked the security of them, even if he was only in waist deep water.
  • No splashing - this meant we could only swim when there weren't very many people around
  • Small swimming lesson group with friends - I gave Tricky the choice of participating in his school swimming lessons or not, and he chose to do it. Peer pressure, not wanting to be left out? I'm not sure, but it helped him enormously to have people he knew around. His first swimming lesson had me in tears I was so happy to see him trying so hard. 
  • PRAISE - we let Tricks know at every opportunity that he was doing a good job, and that all we wanted was for him to try but he could stop at any time. This meant that sometimes he was being lavished with praise for going in waist deep - because for him, it was a mammoth achievement so we treated it as such. He needed lots of encouragement and thrived on turning around to see a thumbs up or a wave from me sitting by the pool. 
  • Acknowledging his fear - letting Tricky share his feelings without fear of ridicule was really important to us and I think it definitely helped. He knew he was not going to get in trouble and we made sure we never said he was being silly/naughty/misbehaving when he was too terrified to get in the water. 
Swim Fails:
  • Assuming that because he swum so confidently three weeks ago, that he'd be right back in to it at the same level (he needs a little warm up after a few weeks off)
  • Big groups of people he doesn't know well 
  • Slides with water sprays
  • Forgetting goggles - ASK ME HOW I KNOW!
NOW: This dude just amazes me. He put his face in the water for the first time in November last year and now he appears to have grown gills and is diving under the water at every opportunity and bloody loving it. He is still cautious, which definitely isn't a bad thing, and even mentioned to his swim instructor that he was scared when they were simulating falling in a pool so they could get to the edge, but he's come so far in two months... just look:

Building his confidence around water has been so important to us, not just because washing the hair of a terrified child is exhausting, but his for his enjoyment and for his safety in such a water mad country. 

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