In this nightmare with a happy ending, a child may dream that they are drowning and unable to reach the surface to breathe. Then, incredibly, just as they realize they are going to drown, they continue breathing and can breathe underwater in their dream. Like the dreams of flying, this dream is also about discovering abilities during times of crisis or when thrown into a particular situation. The water theme suggests a sense of being overwhelmed and vulnerable to the situations that surround us. It shows that a sense of panic is not only natural but necessary to discover the ability to breathe (survive) in a new environment (underwater).
This kind of dream tends to be outgrown by the time one reaches the age to leave home, but it can and does re-emerge if you are thrown into difficult, new or challenging situations in adult life. It should be seen as a reminder of your ability to survive tough circumstances, even when you feel out of your depth.
The dream can also arise among adults who find themselves not only in a difficult new situation, but in a situation that does not allow them to express their own concerns.