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My 3½ year old son has been diagnosed with a mild eye defect, so he is getting corrective glasses (with non-shattering plastic lenses, obviously). As I've never worn glasses myself, nor my wife at that age, we're not sure what challenges this creates.

Of course he should be wearing the glasses whenever he's awake, but given that he can see very well without them, how can we motivate him to wear his glasses?

What tricks are commonly used by parents?
What pitfalls should we be aware of?

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My daughter will be 3 next week and we only recently started dealing with glasses with her. Normally she wears hard contact lenses, but we decided a while ago that she needed glasses for when she doesn't have her contacts in--especially as her interest in books increases as she gets older.

She LOVES her glasses and sometimes asks to wear them instead of her contacts. Realistically, it's not always practical for her to wear her glasses as her prescription is VERY high and her lenses are extremely thick which makes them very heavy.

HOWEVER...

It's an odd sensation to have something suddenly on your face that wasn't there before whether you're 3 or 30. At 3, he's able to understand on a superficial level that the glasses are to help him.

  • If possible, involve your child when selecting the frames for the glasses. This will give him a sense of ownership and hopefully he'll find a pair he thinks are cool. It is easier to find frames for lower scripts than it is to find frames that will work with higher scripts. My daughter had all of 3 frames to choose from when we took her prescription to get it filled. Fortunately, she found a pair she liked immediately. Talk to the optician who is working with you about looking only at frames that will work with your son's prescription. You DO NOT want him to fall in love with a pair of frames that won't work with his lenses. Most children's glasses are pretty low--my daughter is a definite exception. Additionally, make sure they fit properly. If they are constantly sliding down his nose or pinching the side of his head then he will be less inclined to wear them.

  • When he takes them off (which he will), they MUST be put back on immediately to send the message to him that wearing them is important--especially since you say he can see well without them. If he knows you find it's important then he will be more inclined to take it seriously. This will drive you crazy certainly for at least a day and possibly more as he will probably take them off very frequently at first. Don't nag. Don't chastise when he takes them off. Simply put them back on and gently remind him that he needs to wear his glasses.

  • If there is any other caregiver, he/she must be informed that if he removes his glasses they must be put back on. I have found that grandparents especially seem to be more willing to let stuff like this slip. If your son attends daycare, the teachers don't always realize the importance of the glasses and might tend to let it slide as well. Keep his teachers informed especially during the initial transition period.

  • Teach him that when he takes his glasses off, for whatever reason, he always needs to put them in the same place. There were a couple of instances where we found my daughter's glasses lying on the floor where she had taken them off. Once we told her she absolutely could not do that, we haven't seen it anymore. If she takes them off, she usually brings them to us.

  • The Cardiff University Eye Clinic suggests setting aside a special activity that you do with your child each day that uses his/her glasses. For example, reading a story. You sit down with your child, put on his/her glasses, and read the story. If your child takes off the glasses, you stop the activity. The point is to make a positive association with wearing the glasses. You extend the activity or incorporate a second activity and increase the amount of time your child spends wearing the glasses until eventually they just get used to it.

  • This website offers a few other suggestions like: incorporate the glasses into their daily routine. The glasses go on first thing in the morning and are taken off at naptimes and bedtime. Be positive and praise your child when he/she remembers to wear their glasses.

You'll probably find that the process will be much less difficult than you think it's going to be. I'd be willing to bet that after about a week he'll be wearing them with little fuss!

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Did I read correctly that your 3~yo girl is wearing contact lenses? How the heck did you insert these in her eyes? I can't imagine my boy accepting this invasive operation... Or did I misunderstand you? –  Guillaume Jul 19 '13 at 10:20
    
@Guillaume: Nope, you didn't misunderstand. She wears contact lenses daily. They are hard lenses so they aren't flexible like regular contact lenses which makes them pretty remarkably easy to insert and remove every morning/evening. She used to fight us, but she's gotten used to it and tolerates it pretty well now. For her condition, contact lenses are the best form of visual rehabilitation for her since her glasses prescription is so high and her glasses so heavy. My husband was born with the same condition and had to wear the glasses as a baby/young child. –  Meg Coates Jul 19 '13 at 22:31
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Our daughter got her glasses around her first birthday. The biggest issue at first is the glasses are uncomfortable and they will keep taking them off. At one year old, all we could do was keep putting them back on over and over and over. At three, you probably have more options, like the same incentives you used for potty training.

At any rate, the uncomfortable stage only lasted a week or two, then if the glasses came off it was by accident, maybe once per day for our daughter. We have friends with a son who got glasses at a very early age, and they had to get a strap to keep his from falling off, since he is so active.

The other thing to keep in mind is just like everything else, your son will outgrow his glasses pretty quickly. Adults can generally wait for their prescription to change, or the glasses to wear out. My eye insurance will pay for a new pair every two years for me, but your son may need his replaced more frequently than that. If he suddenly stops wanting to wear them after doing good for a while, they have probably become too tight.

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