Imagine this: your child has started to learn to read at just over three years old. But just as she begins to start her journey learning how to read, her ophthalmologist prescribes her glasses.
As a parent, there are countless questions that come to mind: will my child look different in glasses, less childlike? How much will it cost you in the long run? How long will the glasses last? Will his/her sight deteriorate even more in the future? Any why now, is it too early?
For those who may be wearing glasses as a child, you may remember having to learn to adjust to wearing glasses, and as you grew older needed to change out spectacles continuously, much to your parent’s dismay. But even with that experience, having your child wear glasses now is likely something very new to you.
From a medical perspective, there are many reasons why a child needs to wear glasses:
Perhaps the first and most important issue to deal with is your own anxiety as a parent. Only when you understand your child’s need to prescription glasses will it be much easier to ease your child into the lifelong commitment to wearing glasses.
If your child is at a verbal age, it is time to discuss with him or her about the need to wear glasses. Resolve their worries and answer questions that they may have about wearing glasses for the first time.
Explain to them about the benefit of wearing glasses: Movies they watch will be clearer, they can see better at school and see what is written on the board easier, not to mention glasses can make a person looks smarter.
Avoid the temptation of blaming your child’s seeing behavior as a factor leading to wearing glasses, such as reading in the dark, spending too much time watching YouTube and countless other reasons that comes to mind. Instead, take this as a positive step towards healthier lifestyle and vision.
Remember, your child has to be one who has to put on the glasses, so it makes sense if you give them the chance to pick out the eye wear that suits their taste and how it looks on them. Certainly, set your budget for the frame but where possible do include your little ones have a say on the purchase.
Be aware of what is on offer such as a photochromic lens that darkens automatically in sunlight outdoors, or new materials for frames that are lighter or more durable to being bent or broken. Let your child have a choice for them to be fashion-forward in deciding between plastic or metal frames.
Some children frames have styles that intentionally mimic unisex eyeglass frames designed for adults. Kids often are attracted to these styles because they look more grown-up, just like Mom’s or Dad’s.
Make sure the frame has a nose pad that fits the nose bridge properly. When trying on the glasses, ask your child to walk around, look up and down and turn their head. If it slips, find those that accommodate these simple movements.
Once the glasses are ready, take baby steps in enforcing the habit of wearing glasses on your child. Ask your child to wear their glasses for fifteen minutes a day and continue increasing daily eyewear time slowly.
Place a friendly reminder poster in their bedroom or mirror such as putting them on once they wake up and keeping them in the case before going to sleep. Soon, wearing glasses will be a seamless part of their daily routine, just like brushing their teeth.
Introduce positive reinforcement with respect to wearing and usage of glasses in the correct way, just like potty training for toddlers. For example, when he or she has managed to keep the glasses on throughout the first week, reward your child with a favorite book or a trip to the cinema.
Children can be very influenced with the world around them. They look up to people and personalities, including you as a parent, characters on their favorite TV shows or famous celebrities. Show them pictures of celebrities who wear glasses and how they look good wearing them.
When watching TV shows, movies or cartoons point out famous characters who wear glasses. Famously, author J.K. Rowling revealed that she wrote her leading character Harry Potter as a boy who wears the famous round frame glasses to portray that superheroes can also be smart and nerdy.
There are many real-life celebrities who wear glasses in their daily lives as well, such as superstars like Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt.
If your child is at a school-going age, you might want to wait for the start of new school term to start them off wearing glasses. Help them out with pointers to share with their friends on why he or she needs to wear glasses, the advantages of wearing glasses to improve vision, and other health pointers about vision.
Occasionally, do check in with their teacher to see whether he/she is wearing glasses as they should be.
Buy two pairs of glasses, one main pair that your child uses every day and the other backup pair that they always kept in case it went missing in school.
There are plenty of books that aimed at helping children understand the need to wear glasses, easing them into the habit or for those undergoing eye treatments which requires them to wear an eye patch. Read along with them at night before bedtime and use this precious bonding time to learn more about their adjustment to wearing glasses.
Chances are, your ophthalmologist may have many years of experience working with children, especially those young ones who refuse to be treated. If you feel frustrated when dealing with your child in getting used to wearing glasses, or related eye protection such as eye patch, seek out help with your ophthalmologist on how to make your kids comfortable with their exams and frame fittings. Do not be afraid to go back to your eye doctor for a frame adjustment if their frames are not a perfect fit.
Once your child starts to wear their glasses regularly, you should check in to make sure their glasses fits comfortably and that they are properly caring for them. Proper care will ensure that dirty or scratched lenses do not discourage your kids from wearing their glasses. And you do not have to replace them as often!
Dr Norazah Abdul Rahman is Consultant Ophthalmologist with over 17 years’ experience in public and private care, specializing in Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. She is currently practicing in Ara Damansara Medical Centre