Managing parent expectations

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VacSwim and holiday swimming programs are highly popular during the summer months, with large numbers of students enrolling in lessons. Along with the added pressure of running larger classes, swimming instructors must also communicate with a greater number of parents. Getting around to talk to each parent is a challenge, and, if not managed properly, disagreements can arise over the assessment of a child’s ability.

It’s important to manage the expectations of parents concerning their child’s swimming stage, particularly if the student hasn’t had much in the way of swimming lessons throughout the year. If, for example, the student hasn’t had lessons since the last summer holidays, they could easily have forgotten the skills learnt in previous stages.

If a child has regressed or their skills aren’t quite where they should be, they may need to redo a stage they had previously passed which can be difficult to communicate to the parent.

Here are some tips that can help with managing parents’ expectations:

  • Have a conversation with the parent about the amount and frequency of lessons their child has had previously.
  • When assessing students in their early lessons (ideally during their first lesson with you), be clear about what you expect to see. 
  • Invite the parent to observe with you if you have experienced some backlash about your initial assessment. Allowing parents to see their child from your perspective can help at times.
  • Check in with parents throughout the program to let them know how their child is going. Discuss the improvements they have made, and which skills may need some additional work.
  • Make suggestions for skills that can be practised at home – for example, sitting on a chair to practise their breaststroke kick, ensuring their feet are turned out correctly.
  • If additional swimming is required, suggest the parents let their child practise outside of lessons by bringing them to the local pool. Give them tips on what to work on or what to look out for.


In order to limit conflict or disgruntled parents it’s essential to keep the communication flowing. Don’t wait until the last lesson to let them know their child is struggling with a skill, especially if you know they have attempted this stage previously.

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