What Bespectacled Kids Need Parents To Know
When I was six years old I walked into class after a vacation only to have my teacher ask who I was. I was slightly alarmed, but mostly confused; did she think I was an impostor? Was she going to send me back home? She lifted the large glasses off my face, exclaimed in delight because she recognised me, and packed me off to my seat with my new glasses perched firmly on my nose.
Thus began my lifelong adventures with poor vision.
It’s been more than two decades since that day, and I’ve learned a lot about life with poor vision along the way. When I was younger, I wasn’t always able to tell my parents what I needed, and they found it difficult to divine. Your child may not be able to tell you eloquently how you can help her navigate the trials and tribulations of being blurry eyed, so I’m here to shed light.
We need you to keep an eye on our vision.
Kids may not realise that a headache can be more than just a headache. Do them a favor and be proactive: Instead of waiting for your child to tell you that he can’t see clearly – which he may never realize – schedule annual exams with an ophthalmologist. The doctor will check whether your child’s vision is 20/20 and, if it isn’t, provide a prescription for glasses. Even if the annual eye exam is already scheduled, kids’ vision can worsen before it happens. So watch for signs of struggling sight throughout the year and schedule an appointment out of turn, if necessary. A kid who doesn’t get glasses or up-to-date lenses when needed risks difficulty focusing, injuries, and poor eye development.
We need you to hold our hands (sometimes literally).
Having poor vision is often uncomfortable. You may have read the inscription on mirrors in cars: “Objects in the rear view mirror may appear closer than they are” — that’s what wearing new glasses feels like until you get used to them. It can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of days to adjust, and your child may stumble and fumble until he does. Be on hand to help with simple tasks if he is feeling topsy-turvy. I have distinct memories of my mother holding my hand as we walked from the optician’s store to the car every time I changed my glasses and adjusted to a new number. You’d think I would have been embarrassed as I got older, but mostly I was just grateful that I didn’t fall flat on my face.
You may also be needed for moral support during an exam if the doctor decides to dilate your child’s pupils with medicated drops. It’s a harmless procedure that allows the doctor a clear view inside the eye, but prepare your child so he knows to expect a few moments of discomfort. I’ve had my eyes dilated at least 30 times, and each time the drops sting for a few minutes while they do their work.
For a few hours after dilation, he’ll likely have trouble focusing, and bright light may hurt his eyes. Reassure him that his vision will be back to normal soon, and engage him in shaded or indoor activities that don’t require precise vision or the glare of TV.
Listen to us if we say we hate the frames — because we won’t wear them.
Some kids don’t mind the way they look in glasses, but some do. And some really do, going so far as to refuse to wear glasses. Help them by choosing a frame that’s flattering to their face. Be patient as your child tries on multiple pairs (now, she can get used to how she’ll look in glasses from home before visiting an optician — an exciting development since my day) and try not to cringe if her favourite turns out to be lime green and plastic. As long as her eyelashes don’t brush against the lenses (which can cause eye infections), any pair she’ll wear is good for your child.
If your child is still reluctant to wear her glasses, try pointing out bespectacled heroes both real and fictional; Harry Potter, Clark Kent (aka Superman), Mahatma Gandhi, Daniel Vettori, and Kiran Rao are all known for their accomplishments rather than their vision.
We don’t have to stop playing sports.
You may worry your child is more prone to get injured while playing sports if she’s wearing glasses. But that’s not likely; most of today’s lenses can be made from extremely durable material that’s unlikely to break from a stray ball or elbow, though broken frames could still cause harm. While prescription sports glasses and goggles are (pricier) options to consider for kids whose eyesight has stabilized or who are committed to a sport, talking with your child’s eye doctor and coach can likely produce a simpler precaution: I practiced karate for several years while wearing glasses, and the whole class received regular reminders not to hit an opponent on the face.
We need a backup pair.
Glasses sometimes break from regular wear and tear. It’s a good idea to have a second pair as a backup so he doesn’t have to go a few days with blurry vision. I once picked up my glasses only to find myself holding nothing but one arm of the frame. A screw had loosened over time and fallen out, leaving my glasses in two pieces. A simple fix at any optician shop, but getting to one through the haze of bad vision is no fun.