36 answers

Do You Stay with Your Child at Pool?

Hi Mamas,

I'm curious about public/community pool norms. When there are lifeguards on duty, are parents expected to follow their children around the pools or is it reasonable to stay at the chairs and watch from there?

We recently moved to Maryland from California and the difference in the level and number of public services is noticeable everywhere we go. Anyway... our new community pool (really more like a water park... it has slides and a lazy river and several pools of various depths and purposes) has a FULL staff of lifeguards. There are guards in the chairs on each side of each pool, guards in the water at the bottom of each slide, a guard at the diving board, every 50 feet or so along the lazy river, and several guards just patrolling around on foot.

This is the first time we've gone to a pool that was staffed like this. Our community pool in Sacramento had 1 or two lifeguards for the whole pool. Obviously, every adult was expected to supervise their own children. Pretty much everyone did this.

Now, I am seeing most kids are in the pools with their friends, but I can't pick out the adult they're there with. Parents seem to stay at the lounge chairs or picnic spots and the kids come back and check in. I, however, have been going EVERYWHERE with my son (as has been our norm). We go down the slides one after another, I stand on the side of the dive pool while he jumps, I get in the pool with him and stay beside him as he plays with other kids, even sit on the edge of the shallow play pool with the "mushroom."

I'm feeling a bit like a helicopter parent!

So ladies, for those of you with well staffed pools, what is the responsibility of the life guards vs the parents? Is it okay to let him be more independent at the pool now?


What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks, mamas! I knew I would get some good perspective here. My son is 5 but a very strong swimmer (hence the diving boards and water slides). I'll talk to the staff in the office tomorrow and see what THEY say as well. I'm thinking I'll chose our seats near "the lagoon" and try watching from there while he goes down the slide or plays in that area only. The lifeguards mandate a 15 minute "safety break" at the 45 of every hour.

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The danger of a lot of parents sitting around a pool is everyone assumes someone else must be watching the kids. Drownings happen silently and quickly. I don't know the statistics, but I've heard that many kids die this way - everyone thinks someone else is watching. I never trusted my kids to anyone else in water until they became strong swimmers. And it worked, even if some people thought I was a helicopter. They didn't drown!

1 mom found this helpful

I don't care if they are well-staffed. Unless they have a personal lifeguard that will follow my child around (even that is kinda creepy too lol) I won't just leave her alone when she is older (she's 2 now). I would at least sit on the side of the pool and just have my feet in the water. Lifeguards, even fully staffed, may not catch everything and they definitely aren't going to catch if some predator snatches a child off. How are they going to know that isn't their child? Even if the child is freaking out they may just rationalize that they are throwing a tantrum and don't want to leave. I will always be a short distance away and always always will be within eyesight and paying attention to what's going on. Water isn't something to gamble with. I think there was a mom on here that was talking about how a child almost drowned underneath the lifeguard's chair, with a full staff and various guards everywhere maybe it wouldn't happen but who knows if they are watching a different child that looks like they aren't a good swimmer or something. I will sit on the edge of the pool always, I may not follow her when she dives but I will be close and people can just assume if they want to that I'm just getting my feet wet without getting in lol. I'm usually in there playing with her because I like swimming... even if I was out for some reason I'd be close to her.

Don't feel like a "helicopter parent" which is a horrid name and label anyways that I think ppl from older gens have come up with... I'm going to start saying Super mom instead mwahaha. Like other moms said, drowning is 100% preventable with proper supervision.

1 mom found this helpful

It depends on the age of the kids and how well they swim. I lived down the street from the town pool growing up. In those days kids were allowed in by themselves at 9. I was not allowed to go unless I went with a buddy and came home with the same buddy that was probably about age 10 or 11 (after 5th grade). At 11 I was also old enough to walk around my neighborhood and to and from school, go to sleep away camp, etc. I could also swim (had passed advanced beginner lessons). By the time we were old enough for the big pool and not the kiddie pool my mom sat in a lounge or was in the pool but not on top of us. My kids now are very little, 2 and 5, and not swimmers yet. I stay with the little one and in sight if the older one. I prefer to go with another adult so I can have one adult per child.

1 mom found this helpful

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He can be the strongest swimmer any five-year-old could be; but IF...

...the pool is crowded and the guards can't see everyone at once;

...if older kids are roughhousing and he gets pushed under;

...if he hits his head as he's in the pool and loses consciousness;

...if a pool drain cover underneath the surface is broken and sucking water in too hard, and catches him in the suction (it has happened and that's why there are rules now about new pool drain covers -- does your pool have them installed yet?);

-- you won't know until it's too late, and neither will the many lifeguards. I see plenty of horseplay even at pools with more than one lifeguard, and lifeguards can't see the bottom of every part of the pool. You don't have to be in the water with your son every second but I would eyeball him the entire time --- not just "checking in" on occasion. Sorry, but I'd do that even for my 10-year-old. I know some moms will say "what a worrier, sure, anything could happen but it usually doesn't," but it only takes the one time for someone to lose a child.

2 moms found this helpful

Well I had a pool growing up my parents rule was no kids in the pool without an adult watching. As we reached our teens we were allowed in the water if someone was with us. A friend or someone.

Now I am a parent with three kids. We belong to a local pool. There are 2-3 lifeguards on duty. My youngest is 5 yr,7yrs and 11 yrs. I always am right there.
Recently I read in the paper a women died in a community pool and no no even noticed her. It only takes a second for your whole world to change.

2 moms found this helpful

If your son is still 5, I would do what you do and stay with him. Drowning is silent and a child that young can easily get lost in the crowd. I was at a backyard pool party with my 5-year-old this weekend. There were maybe 10 or 12 kids there, he is a great swimmer and I was standing on the edge of the pool the whole time and I still lost sight of him for a couple of seconds a few times.

At a public pool in my state a few weeks ago, a woman was swimming with a group of adult friends and their children. She followed a 9-year-old boy down the slide and never came up. The boy reported her missing to the other adults and the lifeguards but for whatever reason the staff did not follow protocol and clear the pool, etc. and her friends assumed that she had walked home. She was found on the bottom of the cloudy pool 2 days later. When a grown woman, attending a staffed public pool with a group of friends, drown unnoticed it can happen to anyone. I would stay near your son - where you can see him, hear him, and reach him in seconds - until he's a few years older.

2 moms found this helpful

My DD is 5 years old. We usually go to friends' pools, which are either in their backyard or in a community area in their neighborhood. So, those are not staffed with lifeguards, and even if they were, there's no way I would leave DD in the pool by herself. Even with lifeguards, and floaties, and rings, and whatever false security device parents put on kids, there is no replacement for proper supervision. So what if your hair gets wet or you can't wear makeup? The moms that are more worried about socializing & looking good & ignoring their kids really get under my skin. I am not normally that paranoid, but I am absolutely over protective when it comes to my child being in water. Drowning is 100% preventable & it's always a lack of supervision & false sense of security that leads to it. Just a few days ago, a friend's 2 kids stepped on a kid that had drowned in a community pool. Imagine how many people were there, how no one noticed, and how traumatizing it was for those kids to find the body.

2 moms found this helpful

I our public pools kids need to pass a swim test before they can be in the water alone. Otherwise an adult has to be in arm's reach.
I just saw an little girl (about 8) almost drown at the pool last weekend. It was really crowded and I didn't even notice her until the lifeguard jumped in the water to get her - mom was sitting on the bleachers texting on her phone, she didn't even notice until the lifeguard walked up with her kid...
Even with lifeguards on duty, I think I would rather be safe than sorry and also keep an eye on mine myself. As they say, there is no substitute for parental supervision.
Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

My kids are 5 and 7 and both are pretty good swimmers. I am either in the water playing with them or I am sitting close by to keep an eye on them. If you are confident of your son's swimming ability you could give him a little more space, but always be watching nearby to make sure he is safe. I wouldn't be comfortable not keeping an eye on them until they are older. Lifeguards can't keep an eye on every kid at the same time. They are there for safety, but it is the parents responsibility to watch their own children.

1 mom found this helpful

My kids are 9 and 11 and I'm somewhere between the helicopter parent and the "come check in" parent. Every 10 minutes I look to see where they are...that's if there are lifeguards if not, I would be more hands on. They are very good swimmers though...that is definitely a consideration.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm pretty sure I know the pool. I live 5 mins from this pool. As others have said the lifeguards are there to protect and watch for danger and make sure people are observing the rules. That pool can get very crowded and they need lots of eyes on various parts of the pool. You are right on with being with your child; especially at that age. When my son was younger, I did stay with him wherever he went in the pool. As they get older, better swimmers, and have more maturity, you can let the reigns out a little.

1 mom found this helpful

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