Question: My 5-year-old has an eye that crosses in, and the eye doctor says he needs to wear a patch for a while. I am afraid that the other kids will make fun of him. How can I prepare him for that possibility?
Answer: The kind of eye patching you describe is pretty common. Unfortunately, so is teasing by other kids; but there are things you can do to help your son.
• Use child-friendly terms to help him understand why he needs the patch -- things as simple as "It will make your eye stronger" or "It will help you see better."
• Talk with him about the visible differences in people -- adults and children. The patch will be one of his own differences, at least for a while. Together, read some books about differences -- "Arthur's Nose" by Marc Brown, "Leo the Late Bloomer" by Robert Kraus, and "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes are all good.
• Do some gentle role-playing with him to help him know what to say if he's teased. At that age, a calm, straightforward response such as, "It's making my eye stronger every day" can be effective. If teasing doesn't bring a big response, kids will often stop.
• You might consider buying him a Pittsburgh Pirates shirt with the eye-patched Pirate logo. He could wear the shirt proudly and not feel like the only one with a patch.
• If he's in day care or school, talk with his caregivers and teachers before the patching begins. Help them understand why he'll be wearing a patch (and for how long), and ask for their support in encouraging him to be consistent in wearing it -- and in helping him deal with any teasing.
• In all that you do, stay calm and try not to communicate your concerns to your son. This is simply one of childhood's rites of passage, and with your help and support, your son should do well.
The 4 Kids Early Learning Network, a program of Heritage Community Initiatives, has gathered more than 100 columns plus family activities and health information into a book: "Raising Your Young Child in the Real World." Order with a check for the $7.95 shipping/handling fee to Heritage Community Initiatives, 820 Braddock Ave., Braddock 15104, or call 412-351-0535 to use a credit card. For advice, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org , or mail to Heritage.