Having to wear glasses can sometimes present mixed emotions for children and teens – not to mention their poor parents! In fact very often we’ve noticed it’s more stressful for the parents – while your five year old is merrily chewing on their new frames or your 13 year old couldn’t care less, you’ve got all sorts of questions and worries about their sight and how on earth you’re going to get them to wear their glasses. Sound familiar?
We thought we might try and help you out with a few hints and tips from our staff and parents who’ve been through it!
1. Firstly, don’t panic. It can be shocking and confusing when you’re first told glasses are needed – especially if they seemed to be seeing perfectly normally and you just went along for a routine checkup. The worst thing you can do is show it, though, as your child will immediately pick up the negative connection and feel bad about needing glasses. Chances are, they need them for a good reason but in some cases it can be hard enough to convince them of that. Don’t make life harder for yourself by showing it’s a problem for you, too!
2. Ask your Optometrist what the long-term forecast is. If they’re short-sighted or have a lot of astigmatism, glasses will probably be needed for years to come – that’s not to say they will need to wear them all the time though and there are always options like contact lenses. Longsighted children have more chance of growing out of glasses if both eyes are fairly equal and continue to stay that way. Sometimes it’s even a case of only needing to wear them occasionally. If you’re worried or unsure, just ask – we’re here to help.
3. Talk to your child about it, mentioning people they know and like who wear glasses, be it friends or favourite TV and film characters. It can make them feel much less afraid if they realise they’re not the only one and that people with glasses aren’t stigmatised. We often get children who are really disappointed if they can’t have glasses nowadays – we blame Harry Potter for making them hugely popular!!
4. There are SO many options out there now! Gone are the days of being restricted to one NHS frame in a choice of 2 colours – you can now have practically any frame style you like, from cheap and cheerful to designer brands, and you can be as bold or as minimal as you like. Kids really love bright, bold colours and little girls go crazy for pink and purple frames. Make their glasses fun to wear and they will love them. Better still, give them a choice and get them set up with a spare pair so they can make their glasses a real fashion accessory.
5. Let the person who has to wear them do the choosing. If they love them, they will wear them. If they’re forced into something they’re not really happy with, you can guarantee the glasses will get accidentally ‘lost’ or ‘forgotten’. It’s really important you’re both involved in the decision process but let them have the final say.
6. Once we’ve got 3 or 4 frames picked out it’s good to sit down with the magnifying mirror and have a good look at them (the magnifying mirror itself makes things more fun!). We can even take pictures if they would like to see themselves with different ‘looks’ and you can have fun trying silly glasses on too, to show them how good their choice looks! And don’t feel you have to choose immediately, pop back on a different day if they’re not in the mood.
7. Our Dispensing Optician Amy says “I like to take time to explain the practical side of things, cost and NHS entitlement to the parent as it can often be assumed that glasses will be expensive. The NHS cover a significant part of the cost and we also subsidise children’s glasses and spares, so they can be very inexpensive if budget is important. Repairs and replacements are often also covered under the NHS. Discussing cost and boundaries at the outset helps as the child won’t then go and fall for a frame that’s too expensive, it makes the whole process a lot smoother and happier all round!”
8. Consider your child’s interests and hobbies – what will be practical for them? Mangled glasses and bruised noses are bad news, and it’s no fun playing football at school and not being able to see the ball coming until it’s too late! There are some fab, super-tough specs and goggles for sports, and contact lenses aren’t just for big kids. We’ve fitted children as young as 7 with contact lenses and the evidence suggests they’re really good at looking after them, as long as they receive proper instruction and supervision. You could think about lenses just for short periods of wear, right up to full-time wear if your child really dislikes glasses (with modern, breathable Silicone Hydrogel lenses).
9. When glasses have been ordered and are ready to pick up, bring the child along to have them fitted and make it an exciting trip. It’s really important we get them fitted and adjusted comfortably so they are nice to wear. We’ll also reinforce how good they look and be able to talk to them about what they’re feeling and seeing, which can boost their confidence in their new glasses a lot. Sometimes they won’t immediately notice an improvement in their vision as the glasses aren’t really there to make things clearer but to take strain off the muscles – it can be a battle to convince them they need to be worn but with reassurance and patience, and your support we usually get there.
10. Encourage wear and set goals to build up the wearing times – with rewards if they do really well!
11. If they really don’t want to wear them, don’t push it – give them a break, make them think you’re not bothered, and try again later. Sometimes acting as if you don’t mind is enough to make them curious in the meantime! Again, goal setting and big long-term rewards can be a really helpful tactic here.
12. The glasses will alter as they are (hopefully!) worn more and we recommend you bring them in regularly to check they still fit properly and your child is still happy. As you’ve probably noticed, they sometimes have a habit of changing their minds..!
We hope that gives you some ideas and reassurance. If you have any great suggestions or you’ve been through it and want to share your experiences, please feel free to leave us a comment below. Good luck and enjoy!