How Do I Find a Scuba Instructor for My Child?
by Lauren Kieren:
“The single most important thing in a child’s performance is the quality of the teacher. Making sure a child spends the maximum amount of time with inspirational teachers is the most important thing.” – Michael Grove
Great instructors for children have a broad knowledge of diving, a caring and nurturing attitude, a fun sense of humor, embrace their love of learning , encourage children to look at things in a variety of ways, all while having the desire to inspire and make a difference in the lives of young people.
So, how do you find this instructor for your child?
Here are some hints to help you choose a scuba instructor and things to consider when selecting “the one.”
Word of Mouth – Before introducing your child to an experience that will have a lasting impression on them, consider doing some research and seeing what feedback you can acquire to help you narrow down the search for the right instructor.
Take the time to ask other parents in your circle of friends, post the topic in parent chat groups online, and ask your child’s teachers to see if anyone has experience with diving and if so, which facility or instructor they trained with to get an overview of their experience.
In addition, research the local dive centers online and read their reviews. This will help you in the decision making process to determine if it is a potential fit or not before meeting in person.
First Impression – At the end of the day, anyone can look good on paper so, it is important to set up a meeting with the dive center or instructor prior to commencement of training. This will allow you to see if there is a natural fit between your child and the dive staff. During this meeting, give your child the opportunity to speak for themselves while you look for a few simple things, such as…
- Eye contact with your child
- A sense of humor and ability to show their fun side
- Genuine interest in what your child has to say
- How your child reacts to the situation, and how the instructor reacts to your child
All of these things will help you determine if the instructor can efficiently and comfortably communicate with your child. If they do not engage with your child and only have interest in talking to you, it may show you they are not comfortable working with children or possibly look at them as a simple business opportunity.
Openness – Once you select an instructor and a dive center to work with, you can always request to observe a class to get a feel for the environment, teaching style, and make your child more comfortable with the experience by giving them an idea of what to expect during their training.
It is important to note, if the dive center allows this, you and your child should simply watch and ask questions later or in private to not interrupt the class. If the dive staff hesitates or shows resistance to this request, it may cause you to pause and consider if this is a good fit or not.
Equipment – The equipment used for scuba diving is life support equipment. As such, you should be more than welcome to look over it (if you prefer) before your child wears it in training. A few things to hone in on include…
- Mouthpiece, to make sure it is small enough and comfortable for your child. Make sure it is free of tears and if you prefer, you can most likely purchase a new one at the dive center.
- See how the BC fits your child to make sure it is snug and comfortable.
- Make sure the mask and fins fit your child comfortably… It is highly suggested to purchase a mask, snorkel, and fins prior to your child’s first dive experience to allow them the opportunity to get comfortable wearing them before adding scuba equipment to the mix. Even if your child wears them in a pool or tries their mask and snorkel in a bathtub, it gives them the opportunity to be familiar with some of their equipment before adding more to the equation.
The dive center or instructor should be happy to help you find the right set of equipment for your child, even if it is just a mask, snorkel, and set of fins, ahead of time.
Encourage Independence – Just like a great manager has a team in place that can function without him or her, a good scuba instructor builds a sense of self in their student’s diving abilities that will last after their class when the instructor is not around.
Look for an instructor that allows your child to learn and grow in a safe setting and remediates when necessary.
These instructors are not the “center” of the classroom; they facilitate learning versus instructing and encourage students to look for help and answers on their own.
Taking all of these tips into consideration, here is the bottom line: go with your gut. You know your child more than anyone on the planet, if something does not seem right – it probably is not.
Once you have selected an instructor for your child and training has begun, it is important that you are able to take a step back. Remember, your child’s instructor is a professional and they know how to teach scuba diving. It is OK to participate in the course as a spectator, but it is important that you do not interrupt the educational process unless necessary.
Children can start diving as early as eight years old (in a controlled environment such as a pool, see the SDI Future Buddies Program) and become certified divers at the age of ten (see the SDI Junior Open Water Diver course).
The minimum course requirements and formal agency Standards and Procedures are listed in detail in the links above to see what will be included in their training experience.
During the process of finding a scuba instructor for your child, take your time, be patient and willing to wait for the right one. After the training experience, advocate for your child’s instructor so more children have the opportunity to have a great experience while learning to dive at an early age.
Did you start diving at an early age? Do you have children that started diving when they were young? If so, we would love to hear about your experience in the comment section below!
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