Kids and contacts: Is my tween ready for contact lenses?

Kids and contacts: Is my tween ready for contact lenses?

My tween got glasses a few months ago and she is now asking for contacts.  As parents, we are not sure if our child is ready for contact lenses, so we started doing some research, which revealed that many eye care professionals begin to encourage contact lens wear at age 11 to 14 so it's a common issue faced by tween parents.

Turns out there's a fair amount to consider with this vision decision. Here are some of the biggest factors to weigh when having the contact lenses versus contacts debate.

* Maturity and Responsibility

"The child does have to be mature enough and disciplined enough that they are going to be able to learn to put the contacts in and take them out on their own, and to understand the responsibilities (cleaning and daily care) that will be asked of them,” Dorrie Morrow, chair of the Canadian Association of Optometrists’ Children’s Vision Initiative, told Today's Parent.  Even daily use contacts have a level of responsibility. Tweens need to understand the important of their eyes and the care required to care for them when wearing contacts.

In addition, parents need to supervise and ensure that the child is caring for lenses properly. If that's a task that doesn't work for you now, that's a reason to wait.

* Cost

There is no contacts fairy who leaves a free pair under the pillow. Contacts can be expensive. You also need to keep glasses as contacts cannot be worn all the time, so the cost of contacts is in addition to glasses. Many professionals consider daily wear contacts to be a good option for kids given that the require less care and responsibility, but they are also not exactly cheap. AllAboutVision.com says "annual lens cost for daily disposable contacts is $480 to $720."

Of course, pricing varies widely, there are rebates and the kind of contact your optometrist recommends may have a different cost. Regardless, parents are looking at spending more than pocket change. Parents may want their child to help pay for the lenses. If the child has a literal vested interest, they may do better with the necessary cleaning and maintenance.

* Activities

Glasses don't mix well with all sports. Glasses don't work well when your gymnast is working on back handsprings nor do they seem safe on the football field. Softball and soccer are also tough to play with glasses. Really, any sport with a lot of sweat means continually pushing up the glasses, which gets old quickly. Contacts also give an athlete better peripheral vision.

In addition, kids participating in outdoor activities want to wear non-prescription sunglasses, which unless kids have special glasses lenses is much easier with contacts.

* Self-esteem

Tweens become particularly aware of their appearance and fitting in and a happy glasses wearer may suddenly insist that he/she needs contacts now, if not sooner. (Tweens aren't exactly known for their patience.) If wearing glasses is having a big impact on your tween's self-esteem, it's a factor to consider.

Have you faced, or eyed, this issue of kids and contacts in your family? Did you decide to get your tween contacts, or did you decide to wait?

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