Imagine this scenario: you’re taking your young child to the pool for the very first time with hopes of teaching them the fundamentals of swimming. However, as soon as your child lays eyes on the massive body of water, inhales the stinging scent of chlorine, or realizes how many people are occupying this small space, they begin to panic or even throw a tantrum.

In spite of your child’s reactions, there’s no need to worry. It’s entirely normal for children to have a fear of swimming or to experience a bit of sensory overload when it comes to going to the pool. Here are 5 ways you can alleviate your child’s fear of swimming:

Listen to their fears

Although you know there is no reason to be afraid of the pool, your child may not — especially if they have never been in a body of water larger than your bathtub.

Sit down with your child and ask them to explain exactly what they are afraid of. Not only will this give you some helpful insight, but it will also aid you in figuring out how to assure them that they’re safe in and outside the pool.

Don’t be pushy

Even if you know the reasoning behind your child’s aversion to water, it’s best for you to take a step back and refrain from pushing them to overcome their fears. Be calm and gentle, yet persistent.

Introduce your child to the water by bringing them to a local lake or pool, but do not force them to get into or even be near the water. Simply sit back in a lounge chair and show them that it’s possible to relax near something that can potentially be scary.

Then, as they become more comfortable with the idea, get them to put their feet or legs in the pool. Eventually, they will feel ready to fully get in the water — it’s just a matter of time.

Stay by their side

It’s no secret that children feel more comfortable in the water when their parents are there to guide them. Often times, this is because their true fear is falling into the water and drowning, rather than the water itself.

Squelch these fears by swimming with your child and always assuring them that you are there to help them if they need it. This tactic will lower their inhibition and increase their independence after time.

Make swimming fun

Once your child feels more comfortable in the water, introduce floatation devices and other toys to their playtime in order to make swimming seem more fun, appealing, and doable. Louisa G. of Popsugar suggests letting your child play with water pistols, squirters, bubbles, and other toys to help them boost their confidence with water.

Start early

While there are a few simple ways to prevent children’s fear of swimming, the most common is introducing them to large bodies of water early in their lives — even before 1 year of age. After all, the younger a baby becomes comfortable around water, the easier it will be for them to get into the pool. However, it is important to check with your pediatrician before starting any swimming training.