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Our family doctor thought she saw evidence of a crossed eye, so she sent us to an ophthalmologist. At the appointment, the ophthalmologist thought Hannah might have astigmatism. I felt foolish for being sad about something relatively minor, but I couldn't help it. Hannah is not even three years old and, as someone who has worn glasses since I was 10, I felt so bad. You never want anything to be wrong with your child.
Much less important, Hannah is beautiful (at least I think so) and I hate the fact that her pretty little face will be covered up with glasses. I don't want people to look at her and only see her glasses.
Toddler eyeglasses and astigmatism
My husband immediately wondered whether glasses would affect her confidence or if other children would tease her. After searching "toddler eyeglasses" on the Internet, I found many other parents who had the same concerns.â€¨
"I was sad. I cried in the car. And with typical mother guilt, I thought: 'How could this happen?' And 'How could I have stopped it?'" says London, Ontario mom Kelly Westerveld.â€¨
Her daughter Malin, now five, was diagnosed with astigmatism and started wearing glasses about 16 months ago.â€¨
"You don't want your kids to have anything that might open them up to being made of fun of," says Westerveld. "But Malin adjusted really well -- and the glasses helped her in school right away. She was able to print her name within a week."â€¨
Talk to your child
Christie Hayos is a social worker at The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre, a children's mental health treatment, research and teaching centre in Toronto. She recommends that parents check in with themselves to see if their anxiety over this news is based on their own fears or experiences.
"Try to put those ideas on a shelf and check in with your child. Ask 'How do you feel?' But watch your tone of voice," she warns. "Don't be all doom and gloom. Leave it open to see how they feel."â€¨
If an older child is concerned about being teased, empathize with him or her, says Hayos. "Assure them that it is normal for them to feel that way and help explore their worries. Are they based in reality? Are other kids being made fun of or is it just them imagining?" she says.
Make wearing glasses cool
If your child is already teased at school, Hayos recommends working ahead of time with him or her and the school to ease this transition.
"Maybe there is another child at school you could approach who could be a buddy," she suggests. "Ask 'Is there something you guys can think of to do together to make this cool?'"
When Malin got her glasses, Westerveld stopped wearing her contact lenses and began wearing glasses full time in solidarity. On Malin's first day wearing glasses at school, her kindergarten teacher also wore her glasses and the class had a celebration.
And just as Hayos recommends, Malin chose her own glasses -- they're pink, of course.
Dr. Kourosh Sabri, a pediatric ophthalmologist at McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton, Ont., says parents often assume they will have trouble getting their kids to keep their glasses on, but this is not usually the case.
"They notice they can see better, so they keep them on," he explains.
Kids wearing glasses and being active
Many parents worry about the safety of wearing glasses during sports. Depending on the severity of your child's prescription, he or she may go without glasses for recreational activities, says Sabri. When a child is involved in more competitive sports, parents may consider purchasing prescription sports goggles, including for swimming.
Get your child's eyes checked early
Despite these concerns, Sabri stresses the importance of having your child's eyes checked early and buying glasses if needed.
"Vision develops in the first four to five years. If you wait until they are older, it may be too late. The brain learns only to see fuzzy and then, even with glasses, you may not get to 20/20."
Surjinder Sahota, president of the British Columbia Association of Optometrists, says new guidelines recommend an eye check at six months of age, another at about age three and then every year after that point.
"Children don't necessarily know they can't see well. So they won't tell you," she explains. "Or in some cases, one eye compensates for the other."
Buying the right glasses for your child
Once it's determined that glasses are needed, Sahota suggests purchasing a tougher lens material, such as polycarbonate or Trivex, and a scratch-resistant coating that can stand up to little adventurers. You may also want to consider adding UV protection or choosing Transitions lenses, which darken in the sun.
"Make sure they fit well. If they are not comfortable, kids won't wear them," said Sahota, adding that if glasses tend to slip off of a small nose, pads that adhere to the nose can help.
While there is a range of prices, Sahota says you should be able to buy basic frames and lenses for about $100. And be sure to ask about the warranty on the frames as well as a lens-scratch warranty.
Our ophthalmologist decided to wait a few months to re-examine Hannah. This spring, we will find out whether she needs glasses. If she does, I vow to take a deep breath, check my anxieties at the door and help her pick out the cutest pair we can find. I am pretty sure they'll be pink.