When a friend’s toddler was prescribed glasses, my first thought was, “A baby in glasses? Uhhhh, what could be cuter?” But my friend was concerned. Her daughter, Bernie, barely tolerated a hat on her head—how could she possibly stand something as invasive as glasses all day, every day? And those concerns were valid. As soon as Bernie had the glasses on (and yes, she looked so, so cute), she pulled them off immediately, said, verbatim, “No, no, no,” stomped her foot and cried. Yep, it was going to be a challenge.
But now, a couple months later, Bernie is wearing her pink frames on the regular—to guitar class, to the park, everywhere. (And yes, she still looks so damn cute.) But Bernie can’t be the only toddler prescribed glasses—and my friend can’t be the only parent anxious about this issue. So, I tapped my friend as well as eye doctor and Transitions brand ambassador, Dr. Amanda Rights, O.D., to learn more about the tricky toddler-glasses relationship.
First of all, do toddlers really need glasses? They’re so young.
Unlike those years I wore fake glasses from Claire’s because I thought it was cool (it wasn’t), Dr. Rights informed us that vision challenges in toddlers are very real and could impact their development, “From 12 to 36 months, vision is one of the key senses that children use to learn new concepts and discover the world around them.” There are many reasons for a prescription, including protection if they have poor vision in one eye, helping with the positioning of crossed or misaligned eyes and/or strengthening vision in a weak or lazy (amblyopic) eye.
Any warning signs parents can spot?
Look for squinting, tilting of their head, sitting too close to the television or devices such as a tablet or rubbing their eyes excessively, says Dr. Rights, “If anything's raising concerns, make an appointment with an eye care professional—either an optometrist or ophthalmologist who can perform a comprehensive pediatric eye and vision exam to confirm if your toddler has any vision or eye health issues that need treatment.” (Psst, a vision screening by a pediatrician or other primary care physician is not considered to be a substitute for a comprehensive eye and vision exam performed by an eye doctor.) And if your child needs glasses? Rights says to look for an optical shop that carries pediatric eyewear with an optician on-site since the fit is crucial.
And once you have glasses, how do you actually get your kid to wear them?
While Dr. Rights told us that seeing better can be incentive enough to keep the glasses on, we know certain kids (cough cough, Bernie) who might think otherwise. So, what do you do? Dr. Rights suggests letting your child have a hand in picking out the frames to make them feel important, included and therefore more on board. As for my friend, all the advice she found led to the same tip: bribery—whether in the form of screen time, special snacks, toys and books. She also made sure her daughter saw that everyone around her was wearing glasses—dad, mom, heck even the characters in some of her favorite books, “One of my mom friends gave me a great book called Arlo Needs Glasses about a dog that needs glasses.” Dog + book = glasses-wearing gold.
But what if my kid is still tearing them off? (Kinda desperate here!)
Deep breaths. You’re not alone. My friend experienced lots of blowback, but she and her husband took note of the specific times Bernie would get frustrated and rip the glasses off—at the end of the day when she was getting tired, in the car, etc. “We didn’t press at these times since she was clearly already at her limit.” When Bernie was fully awake, home and comfortable, they engaged in some high-impact bribery: “[Bernie’s] favorite thing is to Facetime with her cousins. So, we started telling her that she had to wear her glasses if she wanted to talk to them. After her initial resistance, she started playing with the glasses, putting them on her head. We let her explore and take her time with them. Little by little, she started getting used to them and kept them on for longer. She even started saying the word ‘glass.’”