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Young Teen Won't Wear Glasses

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My question concerns our 13-year-old son and his attitude about wearing eyeglasses. He started wearing them at about eight years old. At eleven years old he had braces installed. He rebelled and would not wear his glasses, agreeing to wearing them after the braces came off. Now the braces are off and he is fighting us on wearing the glasses. We purchased his choice of frames (very expensive ones). He is farsighted, so, as his doctor explained, his eyes adjust to 20/20 vision without glasses, but the eye muscles overwork to do so. We have seen his attention span decline, his desire to read is much less, and his grades have declined some, too.

The doctor doesn't recommend contacts, which would be helpful as far as all the sports he's involved in. The optician did put him in a pair of contacts for a day, but it was painful.

How can we convince our son that wearing glasses will benefit him and that we're not trying to torture him?

A: Let's not forget that no matter how "cool" he is told a fine-looking pair of glasses look on him, he is now a teenager who does not want to look like a "four-eyes". Let's also not forget that he has gotten used to not wearing glasses over these past two years due to his successful rebellion.

I'm not convinced that his attention span, desire to read, and slight grade drop have as much to do with his not wearing glasses as they do with his being at his present age and stage (plus the work usually gets tougher at this grade level).After consulting both a noted opthamologist, and optometrist, I would offer these suggestions concerning eye health and care:

1. They both said that they would be shocked if a talented doctor could not fit your son with contacts that would feel comfortable. One day contacts, while more expensive, can eliminate the need for the ritual (tedious to a teen) daily cleansing, preparing and storing of permanent contacts. Perhaps one of his athletic coaches could give testimony to the sports benefits of contacts. (A 13-year-old often will listen more to his coach than his parents on such a matter)

2. Visual hygiene exercises, usually given by optometrists, may be able to strengthen his eyes so that he does not require glasses or requires them situationally.

3. More frequent eye exams are needed, if he refuses to wear anything, to assure you that his refusal is not contributing to a medically significant worsening of his eyes. His vanity notwithstanding, he cannot be allowed to bring himself ill health.

An opthamologist, not you, should tell him the "bad news" about what his refusal to care for his eyes will bring him in the future.

Drop me a line after pursuing some of these suggestions.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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