Becoming a Patching Parent: Compliance 101
The Children’s Eye Foundation is grateful to have parents willing to share the knowledge they’ve gained while navigating the world of childhood vision. A very big thank you to Gus’ mom, Carrie Groleau for writing this blog series for CEF, which has been endorsed by pediatric ophthalmologists on the CEF Editorial Committee. We know you’ll find her wisdom and insight incredibly helpful on your successful patching experience!
If you haven’t read Part One, Check it out here!
“Like medicine prescribed for the treatment of an illness, patch therapy only works when used consistently and as prescribed. Patching requires constant one-on-one attention in the beginning. It is hard work. Follow the tips and tricks in this post to encourage patch-time compliance, and remember, each hour of patch-time is working to improve your child’s vision FOR LIFE!”– Carrie Groleau, Patching Parent
Patching Compliance Through Consistency, Persistence, and Rewards
Patch therapy is a long-term process that can last several months or years. Creating a consistent patch-time routine and setting clear expectations from the beginning will make the journey easier for everyone involved. Like medicine prescribed for the treatment of an illness, patch therapy only works when used consistently and as prescribed. Compliance from the parent and child is necessary in order for patching to be a success.
Timing and Routine
Many parents feel it’s best to begin patching first thing in the morning when the child is happy and calm after a long night’s rest. Apply the patch when your child gets out of bed and, if possible, keep it on until the prescribed hours are over, even during naps. If both parents work and/or there are older siblings who need help getting ready for school, patching in the early morning might not be practical. If completing all prescribed hours in one stretch won’t work for your family, you can divide the hours into scheduled brackets of time throughout the day, but I recommend setting a timer or phone alert to remind you when it’s time to reapply your child’s patch. Once you determine what time(s) patching works best for your family, establish that routine as a part of your daily schedule and stick to it.
Patching an infant or toddler requires constant one-on-one attention in the beginning, which can make for a challenging transition for the whole family. Make older siblings part of the process and let them help when able. Prepare them for this new journey by reading books about patching (like Jacob’s Eye Patch by Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw, or The Patch by Justina Chen Hadley) and explaining that the patch will help their little brother or sister’s eye get stronger! Give siblings special jobs to feel involved, like picking out which patch their baby brother or sister will wear each day. You can have them color designs on plain patches or ask them to assist with patch-time play by showing their sibling high-contrast books and toys. Be sure to spend quality time with the older sibling(s) during naps and after patch-time is over, even if only 15-30 minutes per day. Schedule dates with your non-patching children from time to time to remain connected and let them know how special they are to you, and that you appreciate their help in the sibling’s eye care.
Consistency is Key!
I have always thought of patching as the definition of tough love. Patching is hard, emotionally exhausting work! Resist the urge to take your child’s patch off when he or she is crying or throwing a tantrum. Instead, help your child calm down and provide distractions until your prescribed patching time is over. Patching is not a punishment and should never be made to feel that way. Be patient when your child cries or complains about having to patch, but matter-of-factly state that the patch must stay on until patch-time is over. If your child rips the patch off, calmly place it back on and offer immediate distraction with a light-up toy, favorite TV show, or by walking outside to play. If that proves too difficult after multiple attempts, take a break and place the patch back on during a transition to another room or activity. Some children are more compliant while patching in a childcare or school setting where there are constant distractions and non-parental authority figures, so take that into consideration when planning your child’s patch time.
Patching a school-aged child carries its own set of emotional and social challenges. However, patching an older child can be easier in some ways as the patient better understands the benefit of patching. Older patchers can be more easily coaxed into compliance through the use of reward systems and incentives, making patch-time more bearable for all.
Here are some ways to help an older child feel more confident about patching:
- Connect with other patching families through social media.
- Show your child daily photos of other kids who patch on Instagram and parent support groups on Facebook.
- Read fictional books about characters with vision needs.
- Learn about famous people with vision needs together.
- Plan a patching show-and-tell presentation for your child’s class.
- Have a patch-decorating party with friends, relatives, or their class at school.
Tips and Tricks to Encourage Patch-time Compliance
- Keep patching positive and try to make it fun! Patch a doll or stuffed animal to make a special patching friend, buy a patching awareness t-shirt, and decorate patches together.
- Give choices. Let your child pick out which patch to wear each day.
- Train your toddler to keep his patch on by using a visual timer like the Time-Timer, one of my favorite classroom and parenting tools. Give your child a small treat like an M&M, chocolate chip, fruit snack, or sticker when you place the patch on. Explain that he or she may have another treat when the timer beeps and the patch is still on. Start small by setting the timer for 1-minute increments, then 3-minutes, and then 5. Gradually work your way up to 15, 30, even 60 minutes, and eventually phase out the timer altogether.
- If necessary, use socks on hands, Snuggle Wraps arm bands, or swim floaties to prevent your toddler from ripping his patch off.
- Use a patching poster to let your preschool or elementary-aged child earn rewards for completing patch-time, perhaps a small daily treat when patch-time is over, and a bigger reward like new toy or special outing once the patching poster is complete. Reward posters are sold online, but you can also make your own!
- Keep certain toys and activities reserved for patch-time. Examples include visits to the public library, building with Legos, coloring with sidewalk chalk, or playing at the park.
- Limit screen time (use of tablet, television, video games, or smartphone) to patching hours only, or after patching hours are finished.
- Have occasional, random visits from the “Patch Fairy” with notes of encouragement, new eye patches, and/or a special treat for good patching.
- Plan special patch-time activities and take patching “field trips” together. Try to make the most of your patching hours by spending quality time connecting with your child.
- Finally, remind your child WHY patching is important and offer frequent praise for a job well done!
Keep the end goal in sight and remember that each hour of patch-time is working to improve your child’s vision for life!
Patching takes an incredible amount of persistence, strength, will power, and determination from both the parent and child. The days may feel long, but in the end, these years will feel short and the results from patching will last a lifetime.
Don’t miss next week where I’ll be sharing ideas for fun and enriching patch-time play with children of all ages as Part 3 in CEF’s Series on Patching!
If you’d like to learn more about Gus and our daily adventures in patching, follow us on Instagram @patchwithgus where I chronicle our vision journey and provide additional patching support.
Enter our Giveaway!
CEF is so excited to offer our first ever giveaway! Sign up for the newsletter from the Children’s Eye Foundation or like us on Facebook for your chance to win a fabulous patching prize pack! Each action gets you an entry into our drawing. Giveaway winner will be selected on May 31st!
Our Super Patching Giftset includes some amazing items to help you and your child on their patching journey. Total approximate value is $300
- Hardback Copy of Jacob’s Eye Patch by Beth Kobliner Shaw & Jacob Shaw
- Patching reward poster, coloring and activity book, My Patching Booklet, and 1 box of unisex adhesive patches from Ortopad USA
- Complete adhesive patch collection from See Worthy Patches = 4 boxes of 50 patches for 200 total patches
- Framehuggers patching gift set including custom Framehuggers fabric patch for glasses with color and design of choice, Headhuggers glasses retainer, and patching reward game
- Eye Power Kids Wear awareness t-shirt of choice with accessories pack
- Custom patching doll from The Giggle Worm on Etsy
- Parent gift from Carrie Groleau @PatchWithGus, including patching reward stickers from PaperLemonadeCo on Etsy