Doctor visits can raise anyone’s anxiety level, most of all children’s. Not knowing what to expect can be the root of the problem. Therefore, preparing a child for their first eye exam, whether it happens to them as a toddler or when they are school age, is the best course of action. Perhaps your pediatrician recommended an eye exam from something he/she noticed during a check up or maybe your school age child came home with a note saying that he/she did not pass the vision screening test. Whatever the circumstances are, it is a good idea to talk to your child about the eye doctor appointment prior to going to alleviate any concerns there may be.
Here are some tips for parents to help children overcome any fears or anxiety about visiting the eye doctor.
- Use pictures – Either draw a picture of the human eye or show the child a picture online. This will help them talk about their eye. Tell them the names of the parts of the eye, pupil, iris, cornea. That way these words won’t sound so foreign and scary during the visit.
- Role play – Pretend to be the doctor and have your child identify shapes and letters. Have your child look up and down and following your finger. Discuss that the doctor may have the child try on funny glasses or look into his/her eye with an instrument that let’s them see the eye better. Also explain that the doctor may need to put eye drops into the eye. Tell your child that it will not hurt but might sting a little.
- Schedule smart – Depending upon the needs and age of the child, schedule the exam for the best time of day for them. If the child still naps, schedule during a time when they are happiest. If a child is in school, try to schedule on the least busy day for the office so the child is not overwhelmed with people, sounds and new experiences.
- Read stories about eye doctor visits to get your child used to the idea even further. Some great examples include: Arthur’s Eyes, The Princess Who Wore Glasses, Pearl & Wagner: Four Eyes and Curious George Goes to the Doctor.
- Visit the website– Most doctor’s offices have website that may have pictures of the actual office as well as pictures of staff members so the child can see that the people are friendly and the office is not so scary.
- Pack for comfort – Most children have something that makes them feel comfortable like a stuffed animal or small toy. Let your child bring a comfort toy that can be stress relieving and can open up a conversation with the doctors, nurses or staff.