Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Children learning how to dive in the Pacific Northwest

Believe it or not, kids often do better in scuba diving education because they haven't grown up with preconceived notions about the water, the equipment, or what it takes to be a scuba diver. I've taught kids as young as ten and all of them have surprised me. I've taught more adults, but often the roadblock to advancing is deeply rooted in anxieties that are often unjustified. I know I can't tell a diver to ignore fears, but when I tell a kid that a particular fear is something that they don't need to worry about, its, "oh, okay." They might tell their parents that they feel uncomfortable, but they get reassurance two-fold; from their parents and me.

Adults have fear of drowning, fear of sharks, fear of being left on the open ocean, fear of equipment failure, fear of running out of air, etc... The kids' responses are the best:

Fear of drowning (When I ask them what happens if they take the regulator out of their mouth underwater): "Duh." Yep, that look of, "are you serious?" "Do I look stupid?" I never have to tell kids to not take the regulator out of their mouth and just keep breathing. To them, it's just common sense!

Getting eaten by sharks: "Cool." I don't have to remind kids that a person is twice as likely to be killed by a vending machine than eaten by a shark. When they ask me if I've ever seen sharks and I tell them, "yes," it's always, "Cool." "What did you do?" "I swam up to them." "Whoa..." "That's what I want to do."

Left out in the open ocean: "Does that mean I don't have to do chores?" Fantastic answer!

Equipment failure (equipment failure is rare; accidents are typically diver error -- so when I ask what is the easiest way to make sure everything is in good working order before getting into the water): "Buddy check."

Running out of air: "That's what the SPG is for. I like air." I ask, "How much?" They answer, "A lot."

Confidence is a huge advantage for kids. Parents regularly promote their children's abilities and emphasize doing their best. Isn't it amazing that adults seem to forget that or back track as they get older. We start doubting everything. Kids learn that the activity becomes natural with practice and doing it often is a reward. They focus on all the cool things that are going to happen and not on what is very unlikely to happen.

We can learn a lot from kid's perspective on learning new things. There is a perspective about diving in the PNW -- "If you can do it here, you can do it anywhere." I really believe it. Not only are the conditions variable, the weather unpredictable, and a lot more equipment necessary, but the water is cold.

Scuba teaches responsibility, focus, attention to deal, relaxation, team work, and patience. Get your kids diving early and watch how those traits are carried forward into other activities and shapes them into confident adults.

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