Children typically excel in the practical portions of a scuba diving course. However, they do have some challenges that must be dealt with in order to help them reach their full potential as divers.
As a Merit Badge Counselor with the Boy Scouts of America, I taught scuba to many children over the years. Some things to note before getting too far into this article are;
Ratios are reduced drastically when teaching young children (for good reason)
Children are not little adults
Your duty of care and the customer’s expectations are higher when dealing with children
This is a difficult topic simply because many of your customers will not understand why their child might not be ready for scuba diving, but when faced with young person, it is important that you take their attitude and maturity level into account when signing them up for your course. Some 10 year olds are very mature, and perfectly willing to listen, while some 12, 13 or 14 year olds will be dismissive and immature. When teaching children, I always encouraged a parent or family member also be a scuba diver, and the child’s regular dive buddy, and for them to attend the class with the child. Many instructors will advise against this, as the child relies on the “buddy” too much, but I found that if you set limits early on, and explain them to the dive buddy, they will likely adhere to them for the safety of the younger buddy. Also, by encouraging them to join the course, I could usually encourage them to take a private or custom lesson, and truly learn how to be a good buddy team.
I also would refuse to issue an open water certification unless the child could comfortably meet all of the performance requirements. Most of the time, they had met all of the requirements for scuba diver. This led to many upset parents, but to limit this, I would offer to finish the child’s training in another class, after they had some time to get more comfortable, and explained how they could use the scuba diver certification to get in the water, under the supervision of another instructor.
Finally, with children, I have found that e learning is the way to go. They have grown up using technology and are very comfortable with it. Most of the time, they can complete the e learning program and comprehend what is involved in scuba much more thoroughly than if they try to sit in on classroom presentations for hours on end.
Teach to your student’s strengths. Take the time to get to know them, and their limitations, and find ways to meet or exceed the performance requirements with them. Teaching children to dive well is a great way to build your business, since they likely have parents who also want to dive and need to stay ahead of their kids. Treat scuba like karate, with the different levels being challenges for the kids to get through, encourage the parents to stay involved, and enjoy teaching in a more personal manner. Really take an interest in your younger students, and you may very well see return customers for years.