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Ask the Experts

My child is getting teased about wearing glasses

By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist

Question:

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?

Answer:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Dr. Stacie Bunning is a licensed clinical psychologist in the St. Louis area. She has worked with children, adolescents, and their families in a variety of clinical settings for 20 years. Bunning also teaches courses in child psychology, adolescent psychology, and human development at Maryville University in St. Louis.

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.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

10/19/2010:
"Gosh, my kindergartener is SO jealous of her eyeglassess-wearing friends! She've been begging me to get her glasses. 'Unfortunately' she has perfect vision. Other kids in the school think glasses are cool too - it is an accessory in their world! Maybe you can get your daughter to play it up as such. "
05/13/2010:
"tell the teacher.ask to see what she can do"
03/10/2010:
"Im 11 and ive had to wear glasses for awhile. I got bullied to. And im sure you've heard this beforebut ignore the bullies. they may keep on bullying you for a bit but after awhile they'll get that you don't care about what they say and they'll back off. Also tell a teacher about this problem. I know you probely dont want to make a big deal about this so do what i did and tell your teacher or have an adult tell a teacher that you want her to keep an eye on it. It is a very important not to reply back to the bullies becuase if you do they'll know there getting to you. It will go away trust me. I hope i could help."
11/9/2009:
"My daughter is in Kindergarten and just found out she will be wearing glasses all the time. She told me that the other kids will say 'ha, ha, you have to wear glasses' and I told her to say 'have to, no I get to'. I had her role play, with me as the mean kid, so when it happens she can have a quick come back. Also after she says this she walks away. Best way to stop mean kids is with a quick come back and then walk away like they are not worth your time. "
04/2/2009:
"My 4th grader is getting ready to get glasses (they're on order). And from the moment she mentioned that she was having a hard time seeing things in class, I started talking them up. I said things like oh, glasses are so cute these days, if you need them, you are going to look so cute and intelligent... etc. We ALWAYS talk about how mean kids are and haave since she was probably in kindergarten. I ahve always told her that people are going to say things and do things but only because they feel bad about themselves or they just weren't taught to be nice by their parents... or maybe their parents don't give them enough attention. Things of that nature. So, she did end up needing them, I took her shopping for any reasonable pair she wanted, we went to endless stores until she found a pair she fell in love with. They are on order and she is VERY excited and can hardly wait to get them. She even went to school and announced to her friends and class that she should be coming back with glasses after spring break! Good luck to you and your child. Please just remind he/she that sometimes kids are mean for reasons that maybe aren't their fault and to NEVER let anyone make you feel bad about yourself. Besides, who are they anyway?!"
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