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:
“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.
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.