As experts in the optical field, ECPs often think they know it all when it comes to patient care. However, as many parents can attest to, sometimes what you want for your kid can differ from what you would do for a child in their position, even when you have their best interests in mind. Two folks in the field who know what parents want in terms of kids’ eyecare needs are Nate Bonilla-Warford, OD and Ann Zawistoski, who have shared some insights with VM on what parents want from their child’s eyecare provider.

ECPs work with patients who wear glasses literally every day. And after a while they start to feel like they know best about glasses selection and use. After all, they are the professionals. But sometimes it’s good to step back and let the patients tell you a few things. The results can be surprising and educating.

We recently posed the question to a a community for parents of young children in glasses, patches and contacts: “What would you want your optician to know about kids in glasses?” The community was Little Four Eyes, a site founded by Ann Zawistoski that provides information, book reviews, a photo gallery and a Facebook page with over 5,500 members. More than 55 parents chimed in with their thoughts and experiences, which we have condensed below.

1. Know how to fit glasses to kids. The number one thing that parents want? An optician that understands how to fit glasses on kids. We all know that kids come in different shapes and sizes, so look for frames that fit the child by size, not by age. Explain what to look for in a good fit, and don’t try to sell frames that are too big. Said one parent, "The right fit can make all the difference in the world as to whether or not a young child will actually keep the glasses on and use them properly."

2. Selection. Knowing how to fit glasses on a child does nothing if you don’t have any selection for them. Having frames to choose from helps ensure that kids will choose glasses they like. If you don’t have frames that fit a child, let us know, and either help the parents find other frames or point them to another shop that can help them.

3. Reassure the parents. Nearly every parent mentioned that finding out their child needs glasses can be very overwhelming and emotional, especially if their child is very young and needs glasses. Be kind, listen to us, and let us know that we’re doing a great thing by making sure our child has the best vision possible. Many parents said something similar to “Looking back it's no big deal, but when I found out my baby needed glasses it was devastating at the time. Recognize that and don't make parents feel bad for feeling that way.”

4. Give parents and kids some time. Picking out frames right after an eye appointment is not always a good choice. We often need time to process the change, and kids may be very tired and cranky from their eye exam. Consider giving us some information to take home, and then set up an appointment for us to come back and choose frames with our child on another day or allowing us to borrow sample frames to try on at home.

5. Costs. The cost of glasses for kids is a huge stressor for us and often we were not expecting it. Be upfront about what all the costs are, and let us know if there are specials or deals, especially for things like second pairs or prescription changes.

6. Warranty. We have seen our kids ruin clothes and toys and other things, so we know what they’re capable of and we know that broken glasses are a distinct possibility. If you have a warranty, let us know, and be clear what is covered, and what isn’t.

7. Talk with our child. Make sure you spend time talking with our child on their level and with age-appropriate language. Work with us to figure out what types of frames we are interested in, and then work with the kids to help them choose frames that they like. Explain to the kids how to take care of their glasses and give a special case or cleaning cloth to hang on to until their glasses come in. "When my son got glasses at two and a half years old, the optician addressed him and showed him how to put on and take off the glasses with two hands and put them away in their case. It was really helpful for him to get that from them first."

8. Explain everything. You are the experts on frames and lenses, not us. A lot of parents have never needed glasses and so find themselves very lost when it comes to all the options. “Explain scripts and diagnoses in layman's terms. We the parents are in too much shock to process medical words that technically mean nothing to us.”

9. Make children feel welcome in your space. Have a space where kids can wait and play that is away from fragile displays. Have fun things for kids to look at once they get their glasses so they can appreciate their vision. Stock positive books about wearing glasses such as: “Glasses” and “I See, You See, We ALL See” for the youngest, “Arlo Needs Glasses”, “Who Wears Glasses”, or “Jacob’s Eye Patch” for slightly older children.

10. Be aware of special circumstances. Do you know what nose pads to use if a child has a latex allergy? Do you have glasses that fit children with Down Syndrome or small bridges? Do you have light-weight frames for kids with sensory processing disorders? The more you can help us with these issues, the better.

BONUS Tips: What Not to Say. Please, don’t tell us that our child must be nearly blind without glasses or that they’ll never play sports. We are already wondering how we hadn’t caught this earlier and those comments aren’t helpful. "I can't even tell you how much hearing ‘he won't be good at sports’ affected my son's self- confidence. He is one of the best on his team, yet is always saying ‘I'm not a sports person because of my eye.’"

Finally, know that when parents find a professional they trust their special little ones with, they are a walking advertisement for your practice. Parents are stopped all the time and asked about their child’s glasses (the younger the kid, the more often we’re stopped). When Ann’s first learned that her 1 year old would need glasses, she chased down every parent she saw with a preschooler or toddler in glasses and asked for advice. If parents receive good service, they’ll sing your praises to everyone who asks.

Nate Bonilla-Warford, OD is the owner of Bright Eyes Family Vision Care and the recently opened Bright Eyes Kids serving children in the Tampa, Fla. area. As an optometrist and parent of a child who has vision care needs, he’s an all-around expert on eyecare for kids.

Ann Zawistoski is the founder of the Little Four Eyes blog, an online community for family and friends of children who wear glasses. She is also the co-founder of the Great Glasses Play Day, an annual national initiative that celebrates children who wear glasses.