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?

Thanks,
T.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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T.,
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

Depends on the age of the kids. I let my 7 year old go with my 12 year old nephew to the slides, but I stay with my 5 year old. They can go all 3 together to the lazy river. But, It also depends on their level of swim ability. Both of my boys are level 3 swimmers.

1 mom found this helpful

I think this depends on your son's swimming ability and age and the size of the pool. I struggled with this this year since my 7 yo daughter is now a very strong swimmer and wants to be in one area with her friends and my 5 yo son is a strong swimmer but is still small in size. Our pool is relatively small and I am confident watching her from the lounge chairs and letting her have some freedom. With him, I will watch him from the chairs in the shallow end. Now that he had "graduated" to the deep end I will stay more close to him. He is also more of a risk taker and she is more cautious. If the pool is super crowded I will be closer by or in with them.

1 mom found this helpful

I think it depends on your child's swim ability and age.
I am a helicopter mom! LOL But my daughter is 4.
I am even the mom who sits right by the area where my daughter is having swim lessons. Only because I have seen and have friends who's kids have been at the side and the instructor was away and they have gone under. I rarely trust that any lifeguard is capable of being available and watching every single second even if it is their job.
I do give my daughter some distance though too...for instance, if we are at a wading pool playground type thing, less than 2 1/2 ft, then I watch her constantly, but give her space to enjoy. But I am still close enough that if something did happen, I could be there within seconds.

1 mom found this helpful

just wanted to bring up that not only is drownign an issue but stranger danger too.

my pool isn't as nice as yours there are 2 life guards for the small pool and 2 for the large. I follow the same rules as the indoor pool now i don't remember exactly -- maybe 6 and under you need to be in the pool an arms length away, and 7-10 you need to be in teh pool area but not in the water and over 11 they can be tehre alone. I would rather be safe than sorry i guess, Even life guards can make mistakes, but i guess i still don't let my kids wander around their school alone during back to school nights or talent show nights.

1 mom found this helpful

Ok - let me give you MY perspective on this.
My son is 8, I also have a 3 year old. My son is a very strong swimmer, and up until 2 weeks ago, I would watch my 3 year old, while he goes on the slides and swims, pretty much unsupervised.
2 weeks ago he had a grand mal seizure, we were just playing at Mcdonalds. We could have been at the pool, he would have drowned, it scares me. Now I watch them both, they both have to stay by me.
He had never had any signs of epilepsy before.

1 mom found this helpful

id check with the lifeguards as to what age they agree to haveing kids roam around without an adult and go with that. as long as he's a great swimmer and you know he will be good. give him a watch and tell him when he needs to come find you by. i tell my daughter who's 11 every hour i should see her. time goes by fast when you are waiting in lines and such.

1 mom found this helpful

If my daughter (age 9) and I go to the pool together, just us, I swim and play and go down the slides with her. If we go with friends, so that there are other kids for her to play with, I enjoy talking with the other moms while the kids play, supervised by the life guard staff. I will still play with her part of the time, if she wants me too.

Here in MN, the lifeguards are responsible for the safety of everyone there. At the pools we go to, I've had a chance to see them respond to situations, and I am very comfortable with their level of 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

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

Not at 5. (From your profile I'm assuming he's 5.) You need to supervise.
Let's not forget that lifeguards are generally summer jobs for teenagers.

1 mom found this helpful

It really depends on your child's swimming skills and the depth of the pool. If not sure I'd take an extra step and provide a life vest with strap that goes through the legs. That would a positive step whether you stay with him or not. I have a seven and a four year old that both are very good in water but the youngest stays in a life vest. I don't stay on top of them but keep a good eye on them. The water depth is where both of them can feel bottom and there are lifeguards everywhere, I mean everywhere. So my oldest gets more freedom but I should be always able to see him in the park. I tell him if he can't see me then I can't see him. We wave back and forth at eachother keeping contact and he is to inform me if he goes down the slide or to the lazy river. The little one stays close but not right beside me.
C.

It depends on your son's age and how well he swims. Your question reminded me of last week's swim lesson. My 6 year old son takes swim lessons at the community pool. There are lifeguards all over and the people teaching him to swim are lifeguards as well. Even though they are all certified in CPR and can swim way better than I ever could, I cannot help but watch my son. I was watching him last week, when I noticed all of the lifeguards gathering around, putting some kind of board in the water, and pulling out a body....I freaked out! I thought it was my son, but it was a training lesson and the person they pulled out was a lifeguard. Now, I'm watching him even more.

Lifeguards are there to save your child from drowning, not to make sure they don't wander off with strangers, I didn't see in any prior posts where any mom seemed to be concerned with that or think its a possible issue. My kids are 11 (dtr) and 8 (son). We have a pool, go to the public pools and also have summer passes to the large water parks. When we go to the large water park, we all wear waterproof watches and I have a check in time that they all must obey. Its usually every 45 minutes. But I also sit in a spot where they have to pass by to go to different areas so I end up seeing them about every 15 min. At the public pool, I sit and watch them and they don't check in. i dont read or am on the phone, I keep my eye on them at all times. Although they know about stranger danger, I'm not quite sure that they wouldnt just take off with someone and a water park or public pool would be a great place for that to happen. Good luck.

I agree that it depends on the age of your child and their water abilities. My daughter will be 4 in September and she is now going down the slides and going off the diving boards and is a pretty good swimmer. I watch her from afar but I don't follow her there each time. For the first few days with the diving board I was watching from the edge but I now I feel comfortable watching from afar. I also have a 22month old who has different ideas of what he wants to do so it's harder to keep them together. I get in the pool and follow him around everywhere. I make sure that I can at least see her and if she's going to do the slide or diving board she must come tell me. She and her friends stay pretty close but I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable being completely out of the pool.

I didn't read all the responses but I agree that it depends on age and swim level. Do you feel comfortable with this? Is it what both you and your son want? Or do you want to swim with him?

At some point we all have to allow our kids to be independent...my son is almost 2 so...I'll be hovering for a little longer. But I also know that if I feel comfortable with it...I'll give him more independence!

I don't go to well-staffed pools. We live in VA. Regardless of any pool I may go to, I'll be there talking frequently with, telling them to be careful, making sure they obey the rules (no diving, no running, etc), and/or I'd be in the pool with them having fun. If I'm not in the pool, I make sure that they are close by my chair, and I watch them- ALL the time. pools are about the funnest thing ever and I'm a big swimmer myself, BUT they can also be a life or death matter- I won't mess around with that.

I love to go to the pool with my 11 and 9 year old. They are good swimmers, there are a lot of life guards. I am very confident to not have to hover. I'm usually on the side with just my feet in the water, and they can be anywhere at the pool complex. My almost 12 year old can occasionally be dropped with a friend. I'm always at the pool with my youngest, or one of her friend's parents is there with them, even though she would probably be fine as well. My Mom friends and I love the pool almost as much as the kids, so they can't completely escape us yet!

My 17, 16, 11 and 8 year olds are good swimmers. I'd probably hover over my 8 year old more since he's younger. I'm kind of paranoid that way. Or maybe if they all stayed together, I'd feel more comfortable. I tend to lean on the side of caution and I annoy the heck out of my kids. But I'd probably watch my older ones from a distance but I'd still watch...LOL

Hard to answer since you don't mention your kids' ages (?)
We belong to a small, very well staffed country club that is only crowded during swim team practice, which is from 7am to noon. Since we never go that early (lol!) I'm not too concerned about crowds :)
Technically we are allowed to leave our kids at 7 years old and older, but mine were only "fair" swimmers so I didn't feel comfortable dropping them off until about age 9 or 10, and always with a friend.
As far as a major water park goes, I felt comfortable letting my kids go somewhat (meaning they still had to check in with me about once an hour) unsupervised around age 11 or 12.

It completely depends on the age of the child. When my kids were little 3 and 4 up to about 6 and 7 I stayed right with them. followed them down slides, cheered at the dives and went on the lazy river with them. when they hit 7 and 8 i parked myself on the sidelines. i went on the lazy river with and without them lol. but no more slides etc. they would come check in every little bit. I am a nanny now and the kids are 7 and 10. i park myself at the sidelines. i go on the lazy river and they come and check in. we have one of those parks with multiple life guards. i think for the little kids though parents / nanny's should stay with the kids.

My 11 & 13 yr olds can go and roam freely with each other or friends. They've gone to water parks with school and were allowed to roam as well.

With my 6 yr old I'm going to be a helicopter mom. He has epilepsy and isn't allowed to take a bath alone, so I'm not going to let him anywhere near a pool on his own. I sit at the edge and keep an eye on him.

This totally depends on the age of your children. I stay with my six year old, even though she can swim and dive, etc. I wouldn't think of leaving her. There are plenty of lifeguards, but plenty of children, as well.

Now, when my child was 12, 13 or so? Then I'd let her swim independently.

Check to make sure they have ALL the newly mandated drain covers installed.

I live in MN and a little girl named Abbey had her intestines sucked out via her anus when she sat on a broken drain cover in the BABY /toddler section of their country club pool.

They had no idea what was wrong with her until they got her to the hospital and they cut off her bathing suit. She had an entire lower GI transplant... but later died. Abbey's Hope is the charity set up in her memory.

All you mammas out there PLEASE check out the site and make sure ANY pool you have your kids at have the new drain covers. You will be horrified to leard how many children get their hair, etc. caught in the drains and can't fight against the powere of the suction.

And... I would sit on the edge of the pool and watch my 5 YO or follow them to different areas if I couldn't have a direct sight line from the edge of the pool, even if they were a good swimmer.

I think it depends how old your child is and how well he swims. If he's at least 8 years old and a strong swimmer, I don't think you need to be right there with him. But, if he's younger or not a very good swimmer, I would definitely stay close.

No matter how many lifeguards there are though, it is definitely your job to watch him. So even if you're able to let him swim on his own while you relax in the lounge chair, don't rely on a lifeguard to notice if he goes under - that should be your job and you can alert the lifeguard to the problem so he can help.

Depends on the age of my child, I'm with my 4 year old, but I do let my 14 and 16 year old go with their friends, just let me know where they will be. I'm not a sun bather and love the water, so I'm usually in it with them or close by to see them.

It depends on the pool, the age of the kids and the parent.

At our local pool, which isn't very big, I normally stay in my chair and read a magazine while my girls, 13, 10 and 8 play with each other or with their friends. I only ask that they let me know where they are (deep end, slides, sand, bathroom, etc). It's nice that I don't have to hover.

When we went to a pool a few towns over, I stuck by them like glue! There were several different pool areas along with water slides, a lazy river, separate lane pools, separate splash pad, diving boards, etc. It was a big place and I couldn't see them from where our towels were - especially if they went on the slides.

So, it all depends. Hope that helps.

I would stay with a small child or one who isn't a strong swimmer for sure. A lifeguard's responsibility is technically to rescue and provide emergency aid for anyone who needs it. The parents' job is to take care of their children so hopefully it doesn't come to that point. A lifeguard has potentially dozens of swimmers of look out for. As a parent, you really only need to worry about your own children. I like those odds WAY better.

We recently went to a community pool that was pretty well staffed, and they still required that parents be in the pool and within arms reach of smaller children (5 and under). The lifeguards would actually yell at parents if they thought they weren't paying close enough attention to their kids.

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