Corrective eye wear – glasses or lenses – are often prescribed for children to help correct their vision problems. In some cases, a child needs eyeglasses because he or she is near-sighted; that is, the child has difficulty seeing objects that are far away. In other cases, the opposite is true. A child may be far-sighted (also called long-sighted); he or she has more difficulty clearly seeing objects that are close (like books). Nearsightedness is often accompanied by astigmatism, a condition that causes sometimes causes blurry vision, squinting and/or headaches.
If your child needs glasses but won’t wear them, what can you do about it? Consider the following tips:
Ask Them Why They Refuse to Wear Their Glasses
Different kids have different reasons for refusing to wear prescription eyeglasses, so don’t immediately assume defiance or misbehavior! Some kids just find it irritating to wear something on their face. Others think it makes them appear “nerdy” or “un-cool.” Some kids may be reacting to teasing by peers; being called “owl-face” or “four-eyes” can be very upsetting to sensitive souls. And some kids are experiencing physical side effects – they feel dizzy, suffer from headaches, or experience other symptoms. If you can surface your child’s specific concern regarding eyeglasses, you are in a better position to address the issue.
Check the Fit
If your child is physically uncomfortable with his or her glasses, consider a return trip to the optometrist for a re-fitting or even a return! Is your child’s pair too tight? Too heavy? Too loose? Are there any sharp or hard edges? Are the lens’ grades accurate? Well-fitting eyewear can be worn effortlessly, almost unnoticeably.
Make it an Adventure
If your child is really young, consider making the wearing of eyeglasses exciting. Did you know that there are children’s story books specifically designed to help younger children adjust to having to wear eyeglasses? A quick search engine query will unearth some titles. You can also point out their favorite glasses-wearing TV and movie heroes (i.e. Harry Potter). And if you have a well-stocked family album (and a family history of wearing eyeglasses!), then identifying aunts, uncles and grandparents who wear a pair can be a fun exercise.
Educate Them About the Need to Wear Eyeglasses
If your child is old enough, arranging a friendly chat with their ophthalmologist or optometrist may be helpful. Knowing the actual health reason behind the prescriptive eyewear can make the wearing of them less of an imposition and more of a choice. The eye care professional may emphasize how common the need for eyeglasses is; it will make your child feel less alone. Identifying concrete benefits of an improved vision — no more waving to the wrong person across the playground, better grades, fewer headaches, more accurate dart games — can also help.
Consider Trendier Styles – even Contact Lenses
For older children (especially for teens and pre-teens), who are concerned mostly about what eyeglasses do to their appearance, try to let your child choose a more fashionable pair — or even contact lenses. As long as the eyeglasses are within your budget, and style doesn’t trump frame and lens quality, do encourage your child to express him or herself. Also keep in mind that even very young children like 5 or 6 year olds are quite self-conscious about their appearance. Make sure that your little child also really likes his or her glasses. Never decide for the youngster what glasses look good. As long as your child doesn’t pick something totally inappropriate or absolutely ugly or impractical, then let him or her have the choice. In other words, if your daughter wants pink frames on a normal looking pair of glasses, let her have them even though YOU think metal or clear frames will go with “everything.”
Make Eyeglasses a Normal and Expected Part of Life
Place your child’s eyeglass case alongside their school supplies and “expect” him or her to use them in a matter-of-fact way. “Please put your glasses when you’re doing your homework.” Don’t give up just because your child seems to be trying to avoid the issue. Persist, as if to say, “there’s no going back; you are wearing glasses now.” Of course, don’t use anger to get your point across. However, feel free to use positive reinforcement (“hey – you remembered to put your glasses on!”) or, if necessary, negative consequences (“if you don’t wear those glasses in school, I’m going to ask every teacher to place your seat in the front row so you can see the board.”)