Updated Feb. 4, 2015
This post is for anyone who just found out their young child (baby, toddler, or preschooler) will need glasses and did what I did – hit the Internet hard and did some serious googling. Learning that your child will need glasses, and possibly have other vision issues is a really difficult thing. It can be quite lonely, as most of us had never known any other kids as young as ours who needed glasses. Luckily for us, the Internet has made distance irrelevant, and we’ve been able to connect with other parents going through the same issues. I’m hoping this guide can provide a bit of comfort and help at least with the glasses aspect.
Feeling upset, worried, and guilty
I’ve heard from so many parents that they were overwhelmed and upset at the news. I know I was, and it didn’t help that I was angry at myself for being upset, too – I wear glasses, and have for most of my life, so it didn’t seem right that it would upset me to learn Zoe would need them. Plus I was filled with worry: worry about buying new glasses, worry that Zoe would have life-long vision problems, worry that I wouldn’t be able to keep them on her, worry that she would forever be known as the “girl in glasses.” Don’t try to suppress your worries, but do know that it gets better, and know that you’re doing the right thing for them in helping them develop good vision.
Many parents end up feeling guilty: that they didn’t notice early enough, or that they might be somehow responsible for their child’s vision problems. There is already enough guilt in this world, and in this case you can let it go. The signs can be very difficult to catch, especially with young children who are not yet, or only just becoming verbal. They’ve never known any difference in how they see, so they are not likely to complain. The vision problems are almost always the result of genetics, natural variations, or premature birth. In other words, not your fault. At all.
- Connect with other parents going through the same thing on our facebook group.
- Read the blogs of other parents going through this.
Finding a doctor
You will be taking your child to their eye doctor a lot in the next few years. You’ll probably be there at least every 6 months, and quite possibly more often than that. Because of this, it is vital to find a doctor that you trust and who works well with your child. While many of us are very happy with the first doctor we visit, many have gone to 2, 3 or even 4 doctors to find one who will work for them.
You may also want to bring another adult with you, especially to the first few appointments. That way one person can watch and comfort your child, while the other person focuses on the information from the doctor. You’ll be getting a lot of information and you want to be able to focus on it, but your child is likely to be upset by the appointment, especially if they have their eyes dilated.
- Read the post about one reader’s typical ophthalmologist visit.
- Read the post where readers recommend questions to ask at your doctor’s visit.
- Read the post where readers discuss how often they see their eye doctor.
- Read the post where readers talk about getting a second opinion.
Getting the glasses
There are more and more options for glasses for young kids, but they’re not always available at every store. Ask around at different eye glasses shops to find out what kind of selection they have, and what their experience is fitting frames to small faces. You will be in for adjustments a lot, so you want to be sure they’re used to seeing small children. Also ask about warranties, for both the frames and the lenses. The frames can get bent, or broken. The lenses will get scratched quite quickly. And your child’s prescription may change multiple times in a year. Find out if the glasses place will cover frames breaking, lenses being scratched and prescription changes.
- Take a look at our guide to choosing glasses that fit your child well.
- Read an explanation of your child’s glasses prescription.
- Read the post that talks about one parent’s experience with a supplemental vision plan.
- Read the post where readers discuss which frames they purchased for their children.
- If you’re thinking about purchasing frames and lenses online, read this first.
- Take a look at the photo gallery, where most pictures include information on the brand of frames.
Getting the glasses to stay on
Many places will tell you that once your child realizes that they see better with their glasses, they’ll be much more likely to leave them on, and even ask for them first thing in the morning. And that’s true, but the trick is getting through that initial stage when they don’t want these funny things sitting on their face. Every child is different, some will take to their glasses immediately, while others fight tooth and nail for months. We recently did a poll on how long it takes kids to wear their glasses reliably, about 65% were wearing them well in a week or less, but more than 15% of the kids take longer than a month before they’ll wear them reliably. Odds are your child will surprise you and take to their glasses quickly, but if they don’t, know that you’r not alone in your struggles.
While there are a lot of strategies to get your child to leave their glasses on, the key seems to be to stay calm and positive (which is easier said than done) and consistent about keeping them on (ok, this is also easier said than done). When your child takes them off, put them back on with a smile, but don’t make a big deal about it. If they are really fighting or upset, set the glasses to the side for a few minutes until your child calms down and try again. You’ll also want to have activities on hand when you put those glasses on. Boredom and glasses do not mix!
You might also want to check out some of the books that are out there about kids in glasses. For some kids, reading books about a specific situation can really help them understand what’s going on.
- Check out the Collected Wisdom section on getting your kids to wear glasses. (It’s a collection of strategies that have worked for the readers of this blog).
- Read our post on rules for children wearing glasses.
Other people’s reactions
You will get comments about your child’s glasses. It’s uncommon to see a young child in glasses, but glasses are common enough that I think people feel comfortable asking about them. Luckily, the comments are nearly always positive ones, though you’ll become practiced at answering the questions of how you knew your child needed glasses, and how doctors can figure out the prescription for children so young. As for other kids, your child probably won’t have to put up with mean comments from kids just yet. You’re more likely to have to deal with other kids trying to take the glasses out of curiosity, or asking their own parents if they can have glasses. There has also been some research that found that most school-age kids don’t believe that glasses make other kids less attractive or less athletic, only that they’re likely to think kids with glasses are more honest (read the post about that study). Of course this doesn’t mean your child will immune from being teased about their glasses, but it sounds as though the unattractive, unathletic, nerd stereotype is perhaps fading.
No one who has been here will tell you that this is easy, but you are not alone in this. Remember that you are doing the absolute best thing for your child and his or her vision by getting them treated early. We hope you’ll stick around and read a few of the stories here and introduce yourself and join in. We’ve all learned so much from each other. Best of luck all around.
- Check out the In the beginning… categories for more stories from parents about finding out their child needs glasses.
- Join our facebook group. Really. It’s an amazing group of parents going through the same thing you are. There’s a lot of support and helpful information shared in that group.
- Have more questions? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page for more specific questions and answers.