When my 9-year-old son first mentioned that he couldn’t read the basketball score across the bottom of the TV, my heart admittedly sank a bit. As practically a lifelong wearer of glasses and contacts myself—I got my first pair of glasses at the exact age my son is now—I figured he’d likely need them at some point. But I was hoping he’d have at least a few more frame-free years in his future.
As we talked more about it, though, I learned that he had also been having trouble seeing the white board in his classroom since they’d rearranged the desks and he was moved farther away from it. He couldn’t follow the maths lessons without getting out of his seat multiple times for a closer look. He was starting to get headaches. It was definitely time for his first pair of glasses.
So first, accept the change yourself
If you had glasses as a child yourself, you might, like me, be feeling some feels when you realise your child is about to join the club. I was never made fun of for wearing glasses (in fact, I distinctly remember being excited to get my first pair), but it is a big and likely permanent change. But they’re going to take their cues from us about how to feel about it, so put your most positive face forward.
(And if you have to, fake it ‘till you make it.)
Talk about what to expect at their appointment
If this is their first time going to an optometrist or ophthalmologist, they may be uneasy about what to expect. Eyes are a sensitive part of the body and some of those machines can look pretty intimidating.
If you are due for your own annual eye exam, you might consider booking an appointment time immediately before or after your child’s so they have the option to watch you go through the exam first. That gives you and the doctor an opportunity to talk about what each machine measures and why those measurements are important.
With my son, I also talked a lot about the optometrist himself and how helpful and friendly he is. It seemed to calm his nerves a bit to know we were going to someone I’ve known and liked for years.
Point out role models
If your child is among the first in their class or in their friend group to get glasses, they may be feeling a little self-conscious about it. But once you begin pointing out how so many of their favourite relatives, neighbours, actors, athletes and even fictional characters (Harry Potter!) also wear glasses, they’ll start to notice how common they are. And that they actually can look pretty damn cool.
Make it fun
Picking out a new pair of glasses should be fun. So many styles and colours to try! Pick out a few options, let them do a little runway show among the rows of eyeglasses or video chat with a friend or grandparent to get some “oohs” and “ahhs” on the final selection (or to help narrow it down).
You’ll want to consider what types of glasses will best suit your child’s lifestyle, depending on how active they are or how durable you want them to be. But if at all possible, follow their lead on style. Maybe lime green spectacles weren’t exactly what you had in mind, but if they’re excited about them, you may be better off to go with the flow. They’ll be the one wearing them every day, and the transition to daily wear will be a little smoother if they’ve got a pair they really like.
Teach them how to care for them (but don’t make them stress)
Kids and glasses really aren’t the best match. Kids are rough and glasses are delicate. Kids are forgetful and glasses can be pretty easy to overlook and leave behind, especially while they’re still not used to wearing them all the time. You don’t want them to think it’s ok to be careless with their glasses but they should also know that accidents happen and if their glasses break or get lost—and they WILL break or get lost at some point—you’ll figure out a solution together.
(Be sure to ask about any warranties when you buy the glasses so you’ll know what level of fixing or replacing will be covered. And ask about any buy one, get one deals they may have; it’s good to have a backup pair.)
A couple of easy ways they can take ownership of caring for their glasses is by establishing a routine for cleaning them—a cleaning spray solution with a soft, clean cloth every morning, for example, plus some pre-moistened cleaning wipes for on-the-go.
Teach them to take their glasses off and put them on with two hands so the arms aren’t over-extended. And let this be your new mantra: “On your face or in the case!”