The first breaths underwater are always very exciting for first-time divers, and usually the fascination for this new underwater world is much bigger than any fears. Sometimes, however, there are some new divers who are very nervous about learning to dive, and need to be treated very carefully by their PADI Instructor.
Follow these 5 tips on working with nervous divers to help alleviate their fears and encourage them to succeed in the best possible way.
#1 – Talk to your students about their fears
If you notice that one of your students is very anxious, then you should talk to them about their fears and concerns. Ask them questions to help identify what and where the problem is, and explain to them objectively, using facts and reassurance, about why there is no need to be scared.
#2 – Explain all of the exercises in detail in your briefing
As a PADI Pro you’ve already learned to describe and explain all the skills, exercises and dives which you’re performing with other divers or students.
If you have one or more anxious divers in your group, you should extend your briefings and deal with the concerns of the divers. Prepare your group and let them know what could be the challenges during the exercises or dives you’ll do together – and tell them how to deal with them in the best way.
#3 – Position anxious students correctly
If you’re doing underwater skills with students, or guiding a dive for a group of divers, then make sure that any nervous members of the group are always very close to you.
While training for skills in larger groups, any nervous divers should never sit completely at the end of the row. If possible, they should always have another diver on either side.
Make sure you begin the practice of diving skills with a more confident diver – not with someone who is already anxious. This reduces the nervousness when one sees that another diver masters the skill without any problems.
If you’re guiding a group with an anxious diver, you should offer them to dive directly behind you. Form a buddy team, and give them the safety and attention they need to build confidence underwater.
#4 – Reduce the distance between nervous divers
As a PADI Pro you’ll already know that you need to stay close to your diving students to have complete control over them. However, if you have a very nervous student in your group you should pay special attention to stay as close as possible to them in particular. This makes it possible for you to intervene at any time, and gives them a feeling of safety and security.
#5 – Give anxious students frequent commendation
After each training session, you should highlight one thing in every debriefing that all diving students have done particularly well – that’s what we call positive reinforcement.
With anxious divers in your group you can expand this positive reinforcement even more and give them extra commendation for things they have mastered. With this additional positivity and praise, you’ll push the self-confidence of anxious divers, which in turn will help to relieve their nervousness and boost their confidence in the water.
Extra Tip: Work in small groups with more time – if possible!
Where possible, work in groups of max. two divers, and plan more time for your course from the beginning – this should be helpful for anxious divers who will feel less pressured by others’ progress. In a smaller group, you can respond even more effectively to the problems and concerns of each student.
This article was written by guest blogger, Christian Hubo. A PADI diving instructor, Christian has enjoyed over 4,000 dives whilst travelling around the world. Above the surface, he’s hiked thousands of kilometers across the natural world. Christian is a freelance web and media designer, underwater photographer, social media and marketing consultant and freelance author. His magazine articles and blog, Feel4Nature, inspires people to follow an independent, individual and eco-conscious lifestyle.