My child is getting teased about wearing glasses
By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist
My daughter just got glasses, and kids are already being mean to her. For the first time in her life, she has low self-esteem. She says that she's ugly and that everyone says she looks better without glasses. Any ideas on how I can handle this?
The first thing to remember is that it takes time for anyone - child or adult - to adjust to wearing glasses. They feel strange on your face, and you become really self-conscious for a while. As a parent, you will need to be patient as your daughter makes this adjustment. On top of that, it is a universal truth that kids can be mean! We all remember comments from our elementary school years, whether they were made by us or about us. Without trying to get at the reasons for these behaviors, it might be better to focus on another universal truth: Kids want to fit in, and they think fitting in means that they have to look like everyone else. In your daughter's mind, this unwelcome change in her appearance makes her different and has earned her some unwanted attention, so her peers' comments have become larger than life!
Use a matter-of-fact approach about the glasses, with the expectation that she will wear them when she is supposed to. Try to minimize your reaction when she comes home complaining about her peers' comments. If you are truly concerned about her self-image, try some of these tips that have been found to improve children's self-esteem:
- Areas of competence: In what areas does your daughter feel competent? Accomplished? Examples might include academic skills, social acceptance, athletics, music, dance, singing, etc. What makes her feel good about herself? Talk to her about these areas, and make sure she has plenty of opportunities to practice and enjoy them.
- Emotional support: Even though you are clearly available for emotional support, try to find alternative sources of support for your daughter as well - not necessarily to talk about her glasses, but to spend time doing positive activities. Possible allies include teachers, coaches, adult family members, etc.
- Social approval: Since your daughter is overfocused on her appearance right now, make an effort to put her in situations in which she already feels socially accepted. This might include a sleepover with friends or enrollment in a class at your local recreation center with a friend.
- Achievement: Learning new skills leads to increased feelings of achievement and competence, and children her age greatly enjoy trying new things. Teach her to cook, have a relative teach her to play softball or enroll her in a baby-sitting class at the YMCA or a CPR class at the Red Cross.
- Coping: Self-esteem is improved when children face a problem and cope with it rather than avoidg it. You might talk with your daughter about why she wears glasses in the first place. Why were they prescribed? Can she tell a difference in her vision? Is her schoolwork easier? Is it easier to see the TV? Try to emphasize the positives and the benefits. Together, come up with some strategies for feeling better about her appearance, such as a new hairstyle or new hair accessories. You might also show her stylish pictures of people in magazines wearing glasses.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.