9 Parent Tips for Transitioning Kids to Contacts
Disclaimer: I am not qualified to give you medical or health-related advice. I’m just a parent sharing our experience.
My husband and I both have terrible vision, which means our kids had little chance of navigating life without glasses or contacts.
My son switched from glasses to contacts at 8 years old. My daughter started wearing contacts at age 11.
Our eye doctor said it was less about the age and more about if the child was ready for the responsibility.
My kids both got glasses in kindergarten, but convincing them to wear them was always a battle. I think at 6 years old, their vision just wasn’t that terrible. They could see everything they needed or wanted to see and the rest they didn’t care about.
In fact, if I had their vision, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with glasses either.
(I know every eye doctor out there is cringing right now, as they should be, but I’m trying to keep things real for you. Remember, consult your doctor for actual advice.)
But you can’t escape genetics! Their vision increasingly worsened and before long it became a safety and learning issue. If you can’t see the board from the back of the classroom, that’s bad. If you can’t see street signs, that’s downright dangerous.
With the advice and support of our eye doctor, we decided to let the kids try contacts. Our doctor taught the kids how to insert and remove their contacts, but would not give them a prescription until they were able to do this ON THEIR OWN while sitting in the doctor’s office.
My son was able to do this during the very first practice session. My daughter had to go back multiple times before she could get the contacts in and out. Multiple. times.
Little did I know that our journey with the kids wearing contacts was just beginning.
Transitioning our children to wearing contacts was not the smoothest experience for us, so here are my tips for parents navigating this transition.
CLEAN HANDS ARE EVERYTHING
You have to make it clear to your child that clean hands are everything for this process. Full stop. There’s no choice in the matter.
If they don’t wash their hands they will eventually get an eye infection or something else. Since my kids did not want to wear glasses to school (and you’ll have to if you get an eye infection), they really had to be diligent about washing their hands with soap and water prior to taking their contacts in and out.
We did not compromise on this part of the learning process and it gave them good habits from the get-go.
PRE-WATCH ANY YOUTUBE TUTORIALS
Your eye doctor is going to teach your kids how to put their contacts in, but that might not be enough.
It wasn’t for my kids.
My kids ended up watching a lot of YouTube videos to see how other kids were putting contacts in, but some of these videos can be a little melodramatic and not at all helpful.
Transitioning to contacts can be scary and intimidating no matter your age. It can be difficult to overcome the ick factor of touching your eyeball. I didn’t need to add anymore drama to that process by having my kids watch another kid freak out about it.
Do yourself a favor and pre-watch any video tutorials.
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TECHNIQUE
What the YouTube videos did teach us is that there are a lot of different techniques for putting in and taking out contacts. In fact, my husband and I both put our contacts in differently. Encourage your kids to try these different techniques to see what feels comfortable to them.
One of my kids is left-handed and that makes a difference too.
PUT TOGETHER A CONTACTS KIT
When a child first gets contacts it IS A WHOLE THING. It can take several minutes to get them in. The contacts will often slip off the child’s finger. There could be several instances of someone (possibly yourself) sobbing “THE CONTACT IS NEVER GOING TO GO IN.”
Having a contacts kit with everything they needed was helpful to streamlining the process.
My kids both started out putting their contacts in at the kitchen table. This allowed them to sit down and settle into the process. Your eye doctor will probably have them sitting at a table to teach them how to insert their contacts, so this process of sitting down at a table will feel very familiar to them. Plus, you know there’s a sink nearby for them to wash their hands!
I gave each child their own box that contained their contacts and contact lens solution. We also had a mirror they could stand on the table. It is helpful to put a paper towel under their work surface to keep things clean and to mop up any eye solution.
My kids were wearing dailies. This means they wore the contact lens one time and threw it away at the end of the day. To avoid any confusion in the contacts kit, I labeled each contact package with an L or R, so there was no question of which contact went in the right or left eye. Plus, an entire box of contacts wouldn’t fit in the container, so labeling them was necessary.
My kids no longer put their contacts in at the kitchen table, but they still do use the contacts kit. We always store the kit where they are putting in their contacts. It used to be in a kitchen cabinet. Now it is in the bathroom cabinet.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
My kids started wearing their contacts a couple of weeks before school started.
If I had to do it over and had the luxury of picking a timeframe, I would have had them start at the beginning of summer. First of all, they have to ramp up to wearing their contacts for a full 8 – 12 hours per day. Second, starting at the beginning of summer would have given them a lot more time to practice putting in and taking out their contacts without the time crunch of needing to get on the school bus or go to bed.
Your kid might easily take to the process, so it won’t be a big deal and I will bow to your superior parenting skills.
My kids had
a whole heap of some trouble at first.
My daughter, who didn’t want any help from me, needed to get up about 30 minutes earlier than usual to have time to put in her contacts. Those first few weeks it would take her 20 minutes – at least – to get them both in before school. Within a month or two, it would take her 10 seconds to get her contacts in.
My son, who was younger, was so hit and miss with the process. Some days he could get one of the contacts in fairly quickly. Other days, he struggled and became frustrated almost immediately. In that scenario, I always had him make three good attempts on each eye to get the contact in by himself.
If that didn’t work, then I would help him hold his eyelid open so that he could insert the contact more easily. His problem was keeping his eyes open wide enough, so that’s how I aided in the process. I’m not recommending you do this. I’m just being very real with you about how we muddled through this process. It was one of those desperate times call for desperate measures kind of things.
It took my son MONTHS before he was as fast and reliable as his sister in getting his own contacts in without my assistance. In my experience, some eye doctors frown on the parent helping. Others seem to understand that, depending on the situation, sometimes a parent will help out if they ever want to be able to leave their house.
Thankfully, neither of my kids had problems taking the contacts out. This was critical! From a safety perspective, they needed to be able to take their contacts out on their own if they were away from home and had a problem, got something in their eye, etc.
KEEP A CONTACTS KIT IN THEIR BACKPACK
To that end, I made sure they had a contacts case, replacement contacts and contact solution in their backpacks when they went to school.
I also let the teacher and school nurse at the elementary school know that my child was wearing contacts and had supplies in his backpack.
I did not tell the middle school because my 11-year-old was able to handle a situation with her contacts on her own.
There will definitely be a situation too. In my experience, a kid wearing contacts is likely to lose one during recess or P.E. at least once.
THIS MIGHT BE EXPENSIVE
If your child is going to start wearing contacts, you eye doctor will most likely recommend that they start by wearing dailies. Daily contacts are worn one time and thrown away.
They recommend dailies for a couple of reasons. First, it lessens the chance of your child getting an eye infection if they are starting with a fresh contact each day. Second, long-term use of contacts can be hard on an eye. At least by putting a fresh contact in your child’s eye every day you’re keeping all the gunk and build-up that can accumulate on a contact lens out of your child’s perfect eyeball.
The downside is that daily contacts are more expensive than other types of contacts. After one year, my older child switched to monthlies. I was more confident in her hygiene practices, so we could make the switch. My younger child still wears dailies.
Also, consult with your eye doctor before you purchase a year-long supply of contacts for your child. Kids grow and along with growth spurts come changes in their vision. Both of my kids needed a change in prescription prior to the one year mark.
We are now on year two of contacts and I’ve purchased six month supplies for both kids. I will continue to work with our eye doctor in deciding how many to buy at a time. I might miss out on a rebate by buying a smaller supply, but at least I’m not throwing contacts away.
It stinks to throwaway unused contacts. There should really be a recycling or donation program for this.
PATIENCE IS KEY
If you have a secret well full of patience, prepare to draw on that thing regularly.
I’ve already admitted to helping my child insert his contacts, so I’m not going to lie about telling you that I had to dig deep for patience through this process.
I don’t regret switching my kids from glasses to contacts, but there were some rough days when adding contacts to our morning routine really threw things out of whack.
EYEBALLS NEED REST
It is important to set expectations with your kids that their eyeballs need a break from the contacts. This means they might have to wear the glasses that they loathe at home or on the weekends.
My kids just opt to wear neither at night or on the weekends when we are home.
This might explain why it is hard for them to see that their rooms are so dirty.
Again, keeping it real for you.
Let me wrap up by saying that we are so happy our kids switched from glasses to contacts. Even though the process had its bumps, we have zero regrets!
Contacts have given both of our kids more confidence in school. They didn’t like to be the odd kid out wearing glasses. It has made playing sports so much easier for my son. Glasses (even the sports type) were always a bother when he was sweating or had to wear a helmet. It has also helped both kids be more responsible because they are ultimately in charge of taking care of their eyes.
My last bit of advice is to trust your gut if you are considering transitioning your kids from glasses to contacts. You’ll know when they are ready and then you can have that conversation with the eye doctor.
P.S. The older my kids get the less I show their faces on the blog. I did “pay” my son with extra Minecraft time to photograph his fingers for this blog post.
P.P.S. This is not a sponsored post by any of the contact lens or solution companies. They don’t know me. While there are some affiliate links in this post, I am simply sharing our experience in the hope that it will help someone else. As always, consult with your doctor before you do anything because I’m not qualified to give you medical advice. I’ve said that enough times, right?
Thanks for hanging out with me today. I hope this was helpful. If you have other tips related to this topic, please leave them in the comments section.
If you just want to read more blog posts, I can make that happen!
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I didn’t start wearing contacts until well into adulthood. My boys were in junior high by then. However, it was the best decision I ever made. I always felt like I was an ugly duckling because my glasses were pretty thick. I could see better when I started wearing contacts . I wore them until I was 78. Then I had cataract surgery and find that I don’t need glasses except for computer work, reading or sewing. Kuddos to you and Jeff for getting contacts for your kids at their young age.
I struggled getting my contacts out for a few days but I was determined so I kept at it.
That seems to be the silver lining with cataract surgery, doesn’t it? Glad that surgery went so well for you!
Just wanted to say thank you for this post. My 9-year-old passed her “lesson” with her doctor on the second try… so I figured we’ll give her 15 minutes before school this morning to put them in and off she’ll go!
This post talked me off the ledge and kept me from dumping the rest of our trials in the garbage. Wish us luck with try #2 after school!
You’ve got this!!! It can be a bumpy transition but I know it will be worth it in the end on so many different levels. I’m so glad I could help (you made my day) and I’m wishing both of you all the luck for try #2!