Getting Kids Ready for Their First Eye Exam
You’ve seen the books: Sally visits the doctor, or Bobby gets a shot. Books can help make going to the doctor more understandable – and less scary – to children. But they only go so far. That’s where you, mom or dad, take a bigger role.
So says VSP doctor Jeanie Washington, O.D, of Chicago, IL. “Parents should talk to their children about annual eye exams,” she says. “Explain to the them, ‘We need to visit the eye doctor so that she can check your eyes. This way we can make sure that you see well and your eyes are healthy.”
According to Dr. Washington, there are some specific techniques parents can use for better doctor-bound results:
- Homework helps. When looking for an eye doctor for your child, focus on phrases like “family practice” and “pediatric optometry.” And, check out the practice before you take your little one. Is it kid-friendly? Is there a play zone? Do the doctor and staff smile and seem friendly? What’s their stock of children’s eyewear like? A little pre-work is always a good idea.
- Tell them a story. Not from a book, but in your own words. Just take some time to explain in simple terms what the exam will be like – from the eye chart to other tests. If you’ve done your homework (see step 1), play up the fun aspects of the office too. Give them a “virtual tour.” Many optometrists have Web sites, you might even have your child log on and get to know the practice. Just like grown ups, children will appreciate the low-down on what to expect.
- Talk to the doctor. Any kind of doctor appointment can leave you feeling speechless – all those questions and concerns suddenly fly out the window. So take some time before the appointment and write down anything you’ve noticed about your child’s vision – squinting, headaches and other health notes will help the doctor know what to look for.
- Give choices. Eye doctors know if you let a child choose their glasses, they’re more likely to wear them. But handle the choices carefully. You might even want to pre-select a range of styles you’d be comfortable with and let your little one choose from that bunch.
- Keep your cool. If you’re not hot on the eyewear choices your child has made, try redirecting or offering other choices, rather than getting upset. Your child senses your frustration, and will probably react in kind. Keep it fun, upbeat.
- Explain the doctor’s orders. Most kids want to do the right thing, so make sure they understand their role in following through on their eyewear responsibilities. Show them how to clean their lenses or care for their contacts.