Install a pool, and they will come; neighborhood kids without their own pools flock to nearby pools in the summer, whether or not the pool owners have children themselves. However, if anything happens to the children, you’re liable as the homeowner. Keep neighborhood kids out of your pool or, if you decide to let them use your pool, take the proper precautions.
Install a Pool Gate
All pool owners need to install pool gates so no one enters when they’re not looking. The gate is the first defense between your pool and uninvited, unsupervised guests who want to use it. Keep the gate locked and the key out of reach — no secret keys under a nearby potted plant. The idea is to make the gate as inaccessible as possible. If you can install a fence around the entire backyard in addition to your gate, that’s even better. Remember that really determined children will climb a short gate. Thus, go for a taller gate rather than a shorter one.
Limit the Number of Kids
If some children have your permission to swim in the pool — your children’s friends, for instance —limit the number of children allowed in the pool. Ideally, tell your kids they can only have one friend in at a time, meaning they invite one friend over at a time to swim. Having a second or third friend sit nearby may tempt kids to break the rules. Step away, and you’re likely to find more than one child swimming when you return. Stick to the one-friend rule: Each child has one friend over at a time or no one swims at all.
Insist on Parental Involvement
If you are allowing someone else’s kids to swim in your pool, speak with the children’s parents and ask if they’ll come to supervise. Don’t let parents pressure you into allowing their kids to swim if they call you or drop off their kids uninvited; stick to children you know or friends of your children. Insist that neighborhood kids aren’t allowed to use your pool until you’ve met their parents. A block party may be a good time to meet the parents.
If the parents are too busy but give their verbal blessing and you don’t mind watching the kids, insist that the parents also give written permission for their children to use the pool. In the event of an accident in or around the pool, written proof from the child’s parents is essential for insurance and possible litigation purposes.
Suggest Other Pools
If kids you don’t know or haven’t invited to swim show up at your door in swimsuits with inflatables around their arms, don’t give in just because they’re ready. Have a list of the closest public pools in the community available and give it to the children, suggesting they ask their parents to take them there. Some common sources of public pools in a community include:
- Water parks
- Amusement parks
If kids trespass and walk into your backyard hoping you won’t notice them, insist on speaking to their parents. If the parents aren’t home or refuse to promise to keep their kids away, report the incident to police. You’re not acting like a bad neighbor — quite the contrary. You’re protecting these children from accidents and yourself from liability.
No matter how much neighborhood children beg, don’t let them into your pool if you’re not prepared to take the necessary steps to ensure their safety and protect yourself from liability. No one will blame you for keeping your pool private, so don’t let anyone convince you to let them use your pool if you’re not comfortable.
About the Author: Debra Lucero is a parenting blogger. She never allows her children into the pool without taking precautions.