When your children are young, you’ll most likely be handling their vision care, including any special care they need for nearsightedness. As they get older, this can become a team effort between you and your child. By giving your child responsibility, you’re helping them learn good habits and getting them ready to manage their eye care as an adult. Here are a few strategies for getting your children involved in their vision care:
Educate Your Child About Myopia
Let your child know what it means to have myopia. Start with a simple definition: Closer objects look clear, while distant objects may seem blurry. Explain to them that many people, young and old, have this condition and that eyestrain, headaches, and squinting to see objects are some of the symptoms they may have with myopia. Talk about how regular eye exams will help and that it’s important to make time to schedule these visits to the eye doctor.
Starting when your child is around age 12, you can teach them how to access their health records. Let them use the computer to visit a doctor’s health care portal.
Feeling More Comfortable at Doctor Appointments
It’s natural for children to feel nervous or worried about a visit to the doctor. To ease kids into an appointment, here are a few tips:
- Have a conversation about the visit. Be positive and address any concerns your children may have about what will happen during their time with the doctor. Give your children advance notice about the visit.
- Explain to your children the reason for the visit. Tell them going to the doctor is a part of self-care and that you have checkups too. Let them know the doctor will check their eyes with different machines.
- Read books together about going to the doctor. Depending on the age of your child, role play might be appropriate so they can become more familiar with what will happen on the day of the visit.
- Encourage them to talk to the doctor. Let your children know you’ll be in the room with them and that it is natural to ask questions and to tell the doctor about any fears or worries they may have.
Balance Screen Time With Other Activities
Limiting screen time may help with slowing down the progression of myopia in children. It can be a tricky balance, since we do most school and personal activities on a digital device. Work with your child to come up with rules that work for both of you. Talk about the following and let your child voice their opinion:
- Where can your child use digital technology? Set aside certain areas as off-limits for electronic devices, such as the car or their room at bedtime.
- When can your child use the technology? Allow your child to decide when they want to use their computer, phone, or tablet. Let them voice how they want to handle their digital technology session times. If you negotiate these rules with your child, they will likely take responsibility for them.
- What other activities does your child enjoy? Have a conversation about other activities they enjoy: taking part in a sport, playing a musical instrument, baking, or working on a craft. Spending time on other interests is a great way for your child to naturally cut down on screen time.
- When is outdoor time scheduled? One of the best ways to balance screen time is to go outside. Make it clear that outside time is required, and have your child decide how they want to spend it.
Help Your Children Understand Proper Eyeglass Care
Glasses are usually the first treatment for myopia in children. To help your child get used to them, let your child pick their frames. If your child chooses their glasses, they may be more inclined to take care of them. Here are a few other tips:
- Have them practice taking their glasses on and off.
- When they take their glasses off, teach them to return the glasses to an adult or put them in a case. When they do return them to you, compliment them for acting responsibly.
- Praise them while they are wearing the glasses.
- Teach them how to store their glasses in their protective case.
Involve Your Children in Their Contact Lens Routine
Most kids with myopia can start wearing contacts at age 8. Knowing how they handle other responsibilities – especially personal hygiene – is a key to understanding whether they’re ready to wear contacts.
But there are ways to teach your child to take responsibility for their contact lens routine:
- Instruct them to wash their hands and dry them thoroughly.
- Teach them how to rub, rinse, and disinfect their contact lenses. Watch your child move through these steps so you’re sure they’re following instructions.
- Remind them not to use water or saliva to wet their contacts.
- Caution them against wearing their contacts if their eyes are red or irritated.
- Encourage them to ask you questions when they aren’t sure if they should wear their contacts.
Make It Fun
Children are more likely to be play an active part in their eye self-care if you reward them from time to time. You can come up with incentives that work for your household: stickers, a gift card, or extra screen time. Rewards may help kids act responsibly, especially when eye care isn’t convenient.
Photo Credit: SDI Productions / Getty Images
Valley Children’s Healthcare: “Helping Your Child Overcome the Fear of the Doctor.”
American Academy of Ophthalmology: “Myopia Control in Children.”
Mayo Clinic: “Mayo Clinic: Q & A: Understanding Nearsightedness in Children.”
KidsHealth: “Getting Teens Involved in Their Health Care.”
Raising Children: “Teenage Screen Time and Digital Technology Use: Tips for Balance.”
CADTH Health Technology Review: “Lenses and Spectacles to Prevent Myopia Worsening in Children.”
Nevada Dual Improvement Project: “Promoting Wearing of Glasses.”
FDA: “What to Know If Your Child Wants Contact Lenses.”
Nationwide Children’s Hospital: “5 Tips to Help Your Kid Wear Glasses.”