Helping kids adjust to wearing glasses
Is your child struggling to adjust to wearing eyeglasses, especially to school? We've enlisted the help of Marilyn Kagan, LCSW, and Neil Einbund, Ph.D., psychotherapists and authors of Defenders of the Heart: Managing the Habits and Attitudes That Block You from a Richer, More Satisfying Life, to give a few pointers on how to best ease your child into becoming "clearer" and have greater "vision" towards becoming a person who is a proud wearer of spectacles!
My red-headed eight-year-old is miserable! Why you ask? Well she's just been given the decree from her ophthalmologist that she will need to wear her glasses full-time, as opposed to just for her daily TV consumption. By all accounts she is devastated, as she's never felt truly pretty in her glasses. Although I think my bespectacled daughter looks just precious in her copper-wired frames, unfortunately my street cred doesn't hold as much weight as that of Miley's or Selena's. And it doesn't help that, not a single one of her tween idols (or the cast of every Disney and Nickelodeon prime-time series), wears glasses. In fact, she's only been privy to media images which depict only the dorky, nerdy girls outfitted in glasses- and it's only once they remove them that they're transformed form ugly ducklings into magnificent white long-necked swans.
These are images I'm finding extremely hard to combat, despite many a pep talk. And yet I too remember my adolescence as a time when any difference was construed as an anomaly rather than a unique trait- and more than anything I know my little eight-year-old just wants to fit in.
So, what can parents do to help your child feel as beautiful as they look in eyeglasses? Kagan and Einbund offer these tips to help your child get accustomed to wearing eyeglasses.
Picking the perfect pair
It is important to pick a pair of eyeglasses that flatters your child's face shape. Have your child look into the bathroom mirror and trace the outline of his/her face with a lipstick onto the mirror. This is a great exercise to figure out the shape of your child's face and determine what frames would work best for them. Look together thru magazines for what colors/styles, your child likes. Make buying those glasses a fun excursion. Give you and your kid plenty of time to try on all kinds of styles…Don't rush it.
Because peer acceptance is the most important thing for tweens and teens perhaps your child could buy a similar cheaper pair for her best friend to wear without the lenses! It's cool and it's a sign of solidarity!
How fun it might be to have a dress up or dress down pair…or just a clear, non frame one that goes anywhere at anytime. It is all up to you as parent to send out the message loud and clear that anything is right… as long as it is healthy and good for you.
Taking pride in their new face accessory
Parents are very important in how they handle this new accessory. Acknowledge to your child that it will feel weird and strange for a few weeks, but it will soon become second nature. You, as mom or dad, need to be calm and nonchalant. Don't fawn all over your child. Stay clear about why they need these but be sensitive that anything different for kids can make them feel awkward and out of their peer group for awhile.
Have your child identify their favorite singer, actress, athlete who wears glasses too. Create a collage to paste up in their room with all these role models and visual representations of what they like. It's a visual affirmation that it's totally OK to wear glasses!
Give your child space to practice in front of the mirror so those glasses become second nature. Tell your child that these specs not only serve a purpose but they are her/his fashion statement (especially if it's a tween or teen getting first pair). Brainstorm with them (if they want you to) about how they can make these glasses their own personal statement. Perhaps making a beaded necklace to hold the glasses around her neck when not wearing them could be fun fashion statement.
Instill a sense of ownership and responsibility
Expensive Gucci, Prada, Baby Phat, won't help the feelings of discomfort. Save your money for a big treat: a special movie, dinner, CD, itunes gift card to give to your kid in celebration of how terrific they handle this new development. Also, you want to be sure your child will be responsible for the glasses before spending big bucks on his/her first set. Remind your child to take pride in their new face accessory and keep track, clean, and make sure their glasses are safe!
"The way parents respond to the life changes their children go through has a lot to do with how the child will eventually make peace with various changes they will encounter. One such issue is how to make it acceptable and comfortable for your child who must wear glasses," says Ms. Kagan and Mr. Einbund. "It is often more of a problem for the parents to come to grips with their child needing extra assistance than it is for the kid. Parents have a way of projecting their own feelings of imperfection or memories of not fitting in onto their children. It's a parent's greatest gift to be supportive, sensitive and aware of what are their worries versus what is really happening inside their child."
Tell us: How have you helped your child adjust to wearing glasses? Comment below!