Your Child’s First Eye Exam
Is your preschooler or kindergartner ready for their first eye exam? These are critical times to have eye check ups, and this is when you as a parent typically start to have concerns that your child can see his or her best. The onset of the school year brings in many young children to the eye doctors office for the first time. Some of them are very anxious because their experience with doctors has normally been associated with sickness and pain.
You can help alleviate your child’s anxiety with Ten Steps To Make Your Child’s First Eye Exam A Good Experience.
1. Explain this is not like the regular doctors office and they will have fun and a new experience. Mostly they need to answer questions as best as they can and they probably won’t need eye glasses. If they do, tell them their are all types of cool glasses today and they will get to help pick out colors and shapes they like. If they need vision correction give them some ownership of the process. If it is determined they need glasses, make positive statements of how much they will enjoy seeing the leafs on the trees and everything else they have been missing like scenes from their favorite movie.
2. Assure your child they will not be receiving any shots or painful procedures.
3. Prepare them for eye drops. You can refer to them as tickle drops; they tend to tickle for a few seconds. Yes they do sting briefly but when I tell children they will probably tickle a few seconds that is what usually happens.
4. Right after drops are put in the eye I start asking children questions to distract them for the first minute or so. If they are thinking about something and answering questions they don’t feel the drops. You can do the same thing by barraging them with questions that have happy answers.
5. Explain there might be several drops and after the first drop the others won’t tickle. The eye is normally numbed first so subsequent drops can’t be felt. Talk to them about how their eyes will be blurry up close for a few hours and they will need to wear some funny looking sunglasses when they are outside for a few hours also.
6. Go to the store and purchase a small bottle of artificial tears. Artificial tears usually feel good and it lets them know the procedure. Giving them a drop will give them a positive experience. If they are too resistant to this or you don’t feel comfortable doing it don’t continue to try as it could make it harder for the eye doctor.
7. Explain they will need to read very small letters on a wall. Have them cover one eye and practice with a magazine page with some print size you can read easily taped to the refrigerator from across the room. Or make your own eye chart. If they don’t know their letters yet pick three objects they know and do the same thing as above. Explain the eye doctor may ask them to compare how they see with different lenses and sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference. They only need to try their best and it is not like a test with wrong answers.
8. Tell your child the optometrist will shine some bright lights in their eye for a short period of time. You can briefly shine a flashlight at their nose to give them the idea.
9. Explain they may need to sit very still for a few minutes while an eye computer checks their eyes. Play a game of sitting still for 1 minute with reward when they do.
10. Promise a reward after the eye exam if they do good. Doing something they enjoy right after a vision exam will give a positive association with going to see the eye doctor.
Make your child’s first visit to the optometrist a fun, positive experience
and you will help them maintain a lifetime of healthy eyesight. Make sure the eye doctor enjoys seeing children. I find they are my easiest patients, are normally cheerful, and they never complain. Last but not least schedule their eye exam at a time when they are at their best, not at the end of the day or around nap time. Help make it be a fun new adventure.