Support Your Patching Child
Eye patching can be a challenge for children, especially after years of invasive eye cancer treatment.
But there are many things parents can do to help children be successful in their patching, while having fun and building confidence and other skills in the process.
A little preparation and planning together with your child can help them feel involved, and give them some control of their experience. They are more likely to cope well and think positively of the patching time.
Every family is different – parents work, children or siblings attend school or childcare – so it can be difficult to “find the time”. Supervised activities are best, check for peeping and keep the child on task or distracted from the patch.
Any amount of patching is better than NO patching. You may need to build up to the prescribed amount of time – start with 10-15 minutes and take it off before the child starts to complain. Otherwise they will quickly learn complaining results in the patch being removed. When treating an infection, you wouldn’t stop giving the antibiotics just because your child says they don’t like the taste.
Reward your child’s good behaviour and success of keeping the patch on for the target time, however short that is.
Significant improvement in vision can be achieved with a small amount of patching, and this does not have to be completed in one sitting. Two half hour blocks is the same as one whole hour, and when the child has really poor vision, they may tolerate this approach more.
“Less is more”. Shorter periods of patching are better tolerated, so it is more likely to continue when short sessions are supported and the child is praised for success.
Create a reward system with your child so they can work towards something positive they feel invested in. Rewards don’t have to be material. It could be something as simple as a visit to their favourite park or playground, ice-cream, a sticker reward chart… the list is endless.
My Child Says They Can’t See…
Your child is articulating that when the patch is on, they can’t see as well as they usually can. But they can still see, and you can demonstrate this to them. Providing lots of reassurance, and perhaps sitting with you reading a book or playing a game together will be most helpful.
My Child Doesn’t Like Wearing It… What Do I Do?
Not every child ‘likes’ wearing a patch – you are covering up their better-seeing eye. What varies is how well they tolerate or cope with the reduction in vision.
Never make occlusion feel like a ‘punishment’, but rather an activity that has to be done, like taking medicine. One that can be completed whilst doing other fun and enjoyable activities.
Provide supervised activities that are still fun:
- Involve your child in deciding when to patch and what to do while patching.
- Dinner time with their eye patch on – distracted while eating their favourite foods. Do not do this if your child is a fussy eater or in other ways struggles with mealtimes.
- Evening routine – bath, book and bed – when you know this is an easy routine for them to complete. This time is best avoided if your child is particularly tired or has had a difficult day.
- When going for a drive, your child can patch for the duration of the drive.
- Hundreds and thousands sprinkled on a plate – have your child pick them up and eat them as a special treat! You could do the same with sultanas/raisins or dried cranberries, peas and corn are great too!
- Games on iPad or other handheld devices, watching a favourite movie or TV show.
- Reward charts go a long way.
- Set a timer so your child can see when the patch will come off. They will also learn to tell the time.
Part 4 of our guide is written directly to children, with simple explanation and tips to help them prepare and cope well with patching. We recommend reading this section together with your child to help you both have a successful patching experience.
Sandra Staffieri (left) and Morgan Livingstone co-wrote this guide.