things to say (and not say) to young kids with glasses

Update 6/16/2014:  Thank you for all the great responses.  I got some great suggestions and I’ve updated this in response. 

As I was reading through the comments on my last post (asking for favorite comments about your child in glasses), it got me thinking about the good things to say to young kids in glasses, and to their parents.  And that, of course, led to me thinking about the things not to say.  Now, I’m sure there’s going to be some disagreement on some of these things.  Different people (kids and parents alike) are sensitive to different types of comments, what one person finds funny might really upset someone else.  Still, I expect there’s some general guidelines we could pull together.  All the examples below are comments that we’ve gotten personally, or ones I’ve heard about through this blog and the facebook group.

Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with saying nothing about the glasses.  It can be really hard when a child is first starting to wear glasses, even when they’re too young to care what anyone thinks.  A lot of times parents get them to wear their glasses by distracting them with an interesting trip out and about.  Having someone point out the glasses may remind the child that the glasses are there, leading to more struggles to keep them on.  But I’ve come to the realization that sometimes, you see this little one in glasses and you just have to say something.

So let’s start with what not to say:

  • Yes, they’re real…and with them, my vision is spectacular!

    “Are those real?”
    No, they’re just imaginary. [insert eye roll].

    It’s such a silly question, and yet it’s one of the most common questions that parents of a young child in glasses get.  Yes, our children look very cute in them, but believe us when we say that we would not spend the money and effort to get our child to wear these if they weren’t needed.

  • “What’s wrong with your child?”  or “What’s wrong with her eyes?
    While it’s totally reasonable to wonder why a child is wearing glasses, asking what’s “wrong” with them is really hurtful.  It’s a pretty good bet that they’re wearing glasses either because their vision needs correcting or because they need eye protection particularly.

    You could ask why the child needs glasses, without using the term “wrong”  if it’s something that you really want to know.

  • Any nonsense about glasses hurting the child’s vision, or questioning whether the eye doctor got things wrong.
    Again, no one puts glasses on our children without good reason.  The glasses are there to help our child’s vision develop correctly.
  • “Poor baby!”
    Glasses can be difficult, and bad vision is nothing to sneeze at, but the glasses are correcting our children’s vision.  They’re helping them to see, they don’t need pity.
  • Just pointing or staring or making mocking gestures about the glasses.
    It’s just rude.  Don’t do it.  I’m sure you were raised better than that.
  • He looks so cute in those glasses!
    This seems like a nice thing to say, and yes, it’s true, our kids do look cute in their glasses, but it makes it sound like they wouldn’t look cute without their glasses, and that’s simply not true.  Plus, this comment is so common that it starts to feel like the glasses are the defining characteristic of our child.  See below about some ways that are helpful in talking about the glasses.
  • She looks so smart in those glasses!
    Again, this sounds like our children don’t look smart without glasses.  And besides, glasses have a magical ability to help our kids see better, but they don’t have any ability to change our child’s intelligence (not that our kids would need it).
  • “She looks prettier without glasses”
    Oh no.  Oh no you did not just say that.  No.  Again, surely you were raised better than that.
  • It’s Harry Potter / a Minion / the kid from Jerry Maguire / the girl from Little Miss Sunshine / a mad scientist / the professor!
    Nope, just our kid.  Unless, of course, it’s Halloween or a costume contest, then you might be right.  Or, I guess, if it really is Harry Potter.  Then you should get his autograph or ask him to perform some Quidditch moves.  But if you’re making the comparison based solely on the fact this child in front of you is wearing glasses, and there’s a character that also wears glasses, then it’s not really a useful comment.  Like the “cute in glasses” comment, I know it probably comes from a place of good intentions, but again it emphasizes that the only thing you notice about them – their only distinguishing characteristic – is their glasses, and that’s just not true.

Things to say

  • Comment on something other than the glasses
    One of the fears I’ve often heard from parents is that people will always focus on their child’s glasses, and not on them.  And that fear isn’t unfounded, the majority of comments that I hear from strangers about Zoe are related to her glasses.  So buck the trend: compliment the child’s beautiful eyes, or their smile, or their quick wit, or how fast they run, or how well behaved they are.  We’d love it.
  • Comment on a specific aspect of the glasses and how they relate to the child.
    Rather than simply saying a child looks cute in glasses, you could talk about how the color of the glasses brings out our child’s eyes, or that their shape really compliments his face, or that the glasses really match her personality.  If the child is old enough, you could ask if they picked out the glasses and tell them what a good job they did with that.

If you do comment on the glasses, don’t be surprised if the child is really shy or upset by it.  Zoe is normally a talkative kid, but she often clams up when she gets comments on her glasses.

Questions

We all get a lot of questions about our children’s glasses, probably the younger the child, the more questions we hear.  A parent of a young child in glasses gets pretty good at answering questions about how they knew their child needed glasses, how on earth you get a child to wear glasses, or how they can test a pre-verbal baby’s vision.  Please ask, especially if you have a young child yourself, because good vision is extremely important, and if we can help someone catch a vision problem early, then that’s a great thing.

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21 responses to “things to say (and not say) to young kids with glasses

  1. Great thoughts! We do get a lot of “Are those real?” and “I love those glasses!” I generally don’t mind any of these comments because 9 times out of 10 they are just a conversation starter for someone to tell me their story about how they wore glasses as a child or their son/daughter did. (It is especially great if the person commenting also wears glasses.) While my daughter may be too young to appreciate these stories now, as she grows older, I hope she realizes that vision problems are so incredibly common, that she has nothing to be embarrassed about and that being brave and wearing her glasses or eye patch in public is probably helping someone else. We are a walking advertisement in many ways for early detection of eye problems in children. Glasses comments aren’t the problem for us. It’s the patching comments which are more in the “What’s wrong with her eye?” vein. Again, I try to model the response I want my daughter to have. Just relax and calmly answer. “Nothing is wrong with her eye. She just needs to exercise it to make it stronger.” This tends to relax and educate other people, and particularly small children, that there is nothing to be afraid of. Sometimes we need to mention that under the patch is a normal, healthy eye. I have noticed that my older daughter who doesn’t wear glasses can sometimes get jealous of all the attention her sister gets. I chalk it up to “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

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    • Oh, the “what’s wrong with that eye” when patching really bothered me, too. I tried to do the same thing, and Zoe and I practiced talking about why she was patching so she could answer some of the questions, too. I think you’re absolutely right about answering calmly to help others feel more comfortable.

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  2. I would be interested to read, what parents should say to the other children, and other adults who ask or say these sentences to our children or to us in front of them.

    My daughter wears patch for a few hours a day, and I often get questions:
    – What is wrong with her? What is wrong with her eye? – from adults. I get angry, as I think an adults should be able to control their curiousity, and should be able to rather stay silent if she doesn’t know how to be polite and not hurtful. My daughter will get her first glasses now (when it is ready in the store), so I would be curious to know what to answer in front of our children, when we get these questions and comments. I am sure it is our responsibility to teach them how to handle the situation and people and they learn it through how we handle it.

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  3. I don’t get “What’s wrong?” questions but I do hear, once in a while from other parents, “How did you know she needed glasses?” It doesn’t bother me because you can tell they just want to know what to look for. And I’m happy to share what I know. In fact, I probably over-educate them, ha!

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    • LOL. I got the same questions as well, while patching… I went into so much details for them about vision and eyes, they will never ask more questions from me for sure 🙂 although I did not intend to “scare them off”. 🙂 I was actually shocked how little people know about it.

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  4. Our Daisy is nearly 9 and has had her glasses since she was almost 2. I’ve been reading all the comments with great interest, and of course they all ring true! However, Daisy loves her glasses and says that she doesn’t feel right without them – I know from our chats that she is meaning more than just how well she sees. I guess she doesn’t remember not having them! She’s been told that she may not need them full time in the future and she’s uncomfortable with this. She thinks that not wearing her glasses will draw attention as everyone is so used to her with them!
    Amy – strangers and friends and family can be ignorant and hurtful, but try to rise above it! I think the best thing to do is to give your child the skills to be resilient so she can feel confident in herself. (Patching is a pain though!)

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  5. Hello Ann,

    I just came upon your website and the books in your store today and wonder if you’d be interested in a book I illustrated called Tulowly the Possum. Here’s a brief synopsis:

    Tulowly moves into a cozy new home at the base of a stump in the corner of a garden. She can hear the sounds of other animals and sets out to meet her new neighbors — but she can’t seem to find them. The other animals think Tulowly can’t be bothered to introduce herself and start grumbling that their new neighbor is rude. Tulowly just wishes she could find her neighbors so she can say hello. They don’t realize that possums can’t see very well. Once the gardener and his wife learn of the problem, they fashion a little pair of glasses for Tulowly and leave them just outside her door. When Tulowly removes the contents from the mysterious box, and tries them on, she is astonished. For the first time, Tulowly can see clearly. At last she is able to get to know the garden animals and makes many new friends.

    I think the story line fits in well with the other books in your store and hoped you might be interested in making mine available. Below is a link to my etsy store where I am selling the book. I would love to hear back from you about whether you feel Tulowly would be a good addition to your list of children’s books about glasses.

    Thank you so much for your time.

    Warmly,
    Barbara McConkey
    Illustrator

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/wasabirose

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  6. I’m amazed how much I get the “are they real?” comment with my 19 month old son. Several times people I don’t know have approached me to ask questions because they think their young son or daughter might have an eye issue. I’m happy to offer our experiences in those cases!

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    • Yeah, if you’d asked me before Zoe got her glasses what would be the most common question I’d get about them. I would never guess “Are they real?” But we get that all the time, though less so now that she’s five and it’s a little more common to see 5 year olds in glasses.

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  7. My daughter is 8 months old. The doctor told me she needs glasses. Anyone with a small baby with glasses that can help me, advise me what to do?
    My older daughter got glasses at 3 years and it was very hard.
    The doctor is known as an expert in eye medicine for preemies and babies (she is a preemie), but she is developing so nicely, I don’t what to do.
    please- if you have experience email me. dvora054@gmail.com

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  8. a woman once said: “ohhh! your son is so cute in glasses! I just love to see kids glasses. I hope my son can wear glasses one day too!’
    Ummmm: #1: Is my son NOT CUTE without his glasses?
    #2; The kids wearing the glasses love to see too. thats why they are wearing them.
    #3: You hope your kid can wear glasses? So you hope your child has a defect in his eye? because in order to need glasses there has to be something wrong with their eye.

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    • Tracy, it was only when we had our second that I realized how much the “your daughter is so cute in glasses” comment affected me. I had heard that so much about Zoe that I think I’d started to believe that other people only thought she was cute because of her glasses. Once we had our second, I was totally surprised that she got comments about being cute, even though she didn’t wear glasses. It really messed with my head more than I’d realized.

      And I can’t believe someone would say they hope their child would need glasses! I love Zoe in her glasses, but I still wouldn’t wish vision problems on someone, much less my child.

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  9. Pingback: Your stories: “I like your glasses” | little four eyes·

  10. Pingback: What not to say to young kids who wearing an eye patch | little four eyes·

  11. My daughter got her glasses at 2 people always ask me why she needs glasses? To see duh! Her vision has actually gotten a little bit better in the 7 months she has had them. I also have glasses and got them at 4 so I somewhat know what she is going through.

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  12. While I can agree on most of these asking someone, (especially a stranger), why they need to wear glasses is not something that needs explained. To me this is what we call a “none- ya” in our house, as in “none of their business”. The better response to that one would be “I’m sorry, we don’t discuss those things outside of the doctors office or home.” and let the matter drop.

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  13. My daughter is not having any problem wearing glass because a teenage gurl had some at the same time my daughter did and that made her good and her teacher wear them

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  14. Pingback: Seven Years! (7 best posts and 7 book giveaway to celebrate) | Little Four Eyes·

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