First of all: “How in the world am I going to keep glasses on the head of my vivacious, strong-willed little girl?”
Then: “I know nothing about glasses! NO-THING!”
Neither my husband nor I had ever needed them. It was like entering a foreign world for me, this place filled with optometrists and words like “amblyopia”, “near-sighted”, and “far-sighted”. Don’t even get me started on all the options they give you to trick out your child’s new glasses when you’re ordering your first pair. Talk about feeling overwhelmed.
And there’s the price tag. Oy!
It’s been three years since we bought Emma’s first pair of glasses and I felt there needed to be some kind of “Glasses for Kids Guide for Dummies” out there. There really isn’t anything. I learned most of this the hard way, and I hope that by sharing what I have learned with you it will prepare you for what’s coming. No matter your child’s age, this stuff is good to know.
1. Your first visit to an eye doctor.
Usually, your child’s vision is checked at wellness appointments with your pediatrician. It’s a good idea to get your child’s vision checked whether or not your pediatrician is concerned, though. In my case, it was obvious my daughter had vision problems when one of her eyes began to turn inward. Other signs of a vision problem might be frustration with school (or drawing/coloring), frequent complaints of headaches or eye aches, rubbing of the eyes or squinting, or sitting too close to the TV or peering too close at a book. Sometimes, though, there are no visible signs.
Choosing an eye doctor
Your pediatrician can refer you to an eye doctor, and I do recommend finding a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist just because they are usually better prepared for making the experience a positive one for your child. Emma has always loved going to get her eyes checked because there are toys in the waiting room and rewards and prizes after the appointment.
If you’re not sure what the difference between an ophthalmologist and optometrist is, an optometrist can examine the eyes and prescribe lenses, and an ophthalmologist is actually a medical doctor who can do the same but also perform surgeries and treat medical conditions related to the eye.
Getting ready for the first visit
Prepare your child for the visit by telling them they need to tell exact truth about what they see when they go to the doctor, and not be shy about sharing the things that make their vision better. You can offer a reward after the visit if they sit very still and listen carefully to the doctor. Pediatric eye doctors are really brilliant when it comes to figuring out what a child means when describing their vision, so don’t worry too much.
Just don’t do what I did once and give your child anything sugary before the appointment. :p
2. What you should know when ordering your first pair of glasses.
There’s a lot more to this process than letting your child pick out his or her favorite frames.
If they offer you insurance, GET IT. You will use it and be thankful. If they don’t offer, ask about some type of insurance protection in case they get broken. Because they will get broken. Multiple times. Be prepared.
Wire or plastic frames?
I’m going to recommend plastic frames. We have tried both and they do each have their pros and cons, but I’ve found plastic frames to be less frustrating by far.
Here are my pros and cons so you can make an informed decision:
Cons: In my opinion, they are much too easily bent out of shape (think little girl throwing tantrum and glasses flying across the room), screws can come loose, and lenses fell out often. I can’t tell you how many times I had to comb the house or yard for lenses. Ugh.
Cons: Once they are broken or bent out of shape, you have to take them in to get them adjusted or fixed by an optician. There is no option to bend them back into shape. Also, sometimes your child’s nose isn’t quite big enough yet to keep the plastic frames sitting correctly on his or her face so plastic frames aren’t a great option.
Once you have chosen a pair of frames, it’s time to sit down with the optician and make the decisions about what extras to add to your order. Usually poly-carbonate lenses are recommended for children’s glasses, and then you have to decide whether you want anti-reflective coating, scratch-resistant coating, or UV coating. I would definitely recommend scratch-resistant coating, and I did have them put anti-reflective coating on my daughter’s glasses once and swore that taking pictures with flash was 10 times better because the light didn’t reflect back to me and block out her eyes completely.
3. Picking up your child’s glasses for the first time.
You got the call that your glasses are in! Time to go pick them up.
Fitting and nose pads
When you first get your glasses, they will need to be fitted. This means that the optician will adjust them to fit your child’s face well. This is where you want to be picky!
First, immediately ask for new non-slip nose pads. Glasses usually come with cheap nose pads and the opticians don’t automatically replace them for you unless you ask. It’s worth it, and only takes a second to change out.
Now the optician will check to see what needs to be adjusted on the glasses as they sit on your child’s face. After they’ve been adjusted, have your child jump up and down, hang their upside down, and shake their head fast to see how well the glasses stay on. Once we’ve done this test and it’s been passed, I know we’re going to be good for awhile. The glasses should stay on the nose firmly without having to be pushed back into place.
Response to new glasses
Be prepared for different reactions. I have seen children wail and cry the minute their glasses were put on. Your child may hate them immediately, or not mind at all. In my case, my daughter was SO fascinated with the new world she was seeing through her glasses she loved them immediately. Not to mention… they were cute. She was sold when she found out she could have glasses with pretty flowers on them. Then, the first time she stepped outside and saw everything clearly, it was like everything came together for her. So for us, it was an awesome experience. Not that we haven’t had “I hate my glasses!” days – those come, even still. But in general it made things so much better she didn’t mind having to wear glasses one bit.
If your child is a bit older and thinks glasses mean “nerd” or “four-eyes”, you might have to do some positive preparing before you pick up the glasses. Find some photos of actors or actresses they like who wear glasses. Harry Potter is always a good choice. :) Build up the positivity of being able to really “see” well and how much better it will make life. Let them be a part of the choosing the glasses as much as possible and that will help, too.
Problems with prescriptions
When your child their glasses on, they should be able to see so much better than with them off. If they complain that they can’t see well or that their eyes are hurting, listen to that and go back to have things double-checked. Just recently when we had Emma’s frames replaced, they accidentally put her lenses in wrong. Emma didn’t realize it right away, but she began complaining soon after that some things were blurry and that her eyes were burning. I took them back and they cleaned them, then double checked them and were able to correct it. I don’t think something like that should happen often, but it can. And sometimes the prescription is done wrong somehow. So just listen to your child and to your own your instincts. You will both learn what is normal and what isn’t.
4. Caring for your child’s glasses.
Generally, new glasses mean you will get a new glasses case, a lens wipe, and cleaner when you bring them home. It’s important that you get a nice hard case because this is going to be an important part of keeping the glasses scratch-free and in good shape.
Figure out what works best for storing the glasses and make sure that habit is learned and maintained right away. The minute they get in bed at night, they can take off their glasses and put it in the case, then set the case on the nightstand nearby. It’s annoying having a big scratch right in the middle of your vision, and that does happen easily with children’s glasses when they are careless.
Try to keep the spray and wipe in a place your child can find and use them easily. And I highly recommend buying a glasses kit with miniature screwdrivers and screws on hand for emergencies. I can’t tell you how many times I had to use these when we had wire frames. Not so much with plastic frames (thankfully).
5. Accessories – which ones to get?
There are numerous accessories out now for children, some specific to certain conditions like eye patches for strabismus and others meant for extra comfort or decoration. Here are some options (some are affiliate links).
We found ourselves needing an eye patch immediately because the reason Emma’s eye was turning inward was due to the vision in that eye being so poor. Eye patching was prescribed. You can either buy one from the eye doctor (these are usually really expensive), or you can find numerous patches online. Here are some from amazon. I have even quickly made my own out of felt that slipped onto the glasses lens in a pinch.
If your child is especially active, I would recommend these Croakies eyeglasses retainers. They hold the glasses securely on their head and can be adjusted to be loose or tighter.
I already mentioned that these are very necessary for keeping your glasses in good shape. There are so many cute styles to pick from! Find something your child will love. :)
One last piece of advice.
Get a pair of backup glasses! There’s nothing worse than having to tape up a pair of glasses because you don’t have a backup pair. And believe me, I know this. If you look at one of my latest posts… you’ll see a pathetically taped-up pair of glasses. It’s much more expensive to buy back-up pairs of glasses when your child’s prescription is complicated and their lenses seem to cost a fortune, but it’s still worth it.
What advice do you have for parents who are new to the whole glasses thing?