As a pediatrician I looked forward to getting my children vaccinated, knowing that they would at last be protected against deadly diseases. As a parent, I await those days with a bit of dread. No one likes seeing their kids cry, even for a really healthy and good reason. Sometimes it is tough to know how best to prepare for those moments. Here are a few tips to get you and your kids through the anxiety of getting shots.
- Tell the truth. Above all, your kid needs to know they can trust you, especially during a time that is scary or painful. Instead of saying “it won’t hurt” you can say “It will only hurt a little bit, and then it will feel better.” Encourage your child that they are tough, and that they can handle it.
- Do not make promises. If your child asks if there will be shots and you are not sure, say “we’ll have to ask your doctor.” Do not promise your child that there will be no shots until you know for sure that there will be no shots. This goes hand in hand with #1. Your child will be much more anxious the next visit if they were surprised by shots.
- Avoid threats. Try not to use statements like “If you don’t behave the doctor is going to give you a shot.” If shots are viewed as a punishment, then when the time comes to get routine vaccines your child will feel betrayed.
- Talk about it at the right time. We all fear what we don’t know. Some kids are worriers, and will work themselves up far too much if they know about the shots too far ahead of time. Other kids need time to prepare, and will do better if they talk it out ahead of time. You may even want to practice giving shots to your lovies or dolls before coming to the doctor. Reading books about going to the doctor, or watching a short video about it can help kids know what to expect. If you are looking for a good example check out Daniel Tiger Gets a Shot. For children age 18 months-2 years a simple statement immediately before the shots is sufficient, with lots of comfort after.
- Dress the part. The adorable overalls or the long leg onsie with a million snaps may not be the best choice for shot day. Go for clothing that you won’t have to fuss with so you can scoop your child up for a cuddle and head to the sticker station.
- Be prepared to help the nurse if needed. Laying on the exam table is the safest place for young children who are receiving shots in the thighs. Keeping hands and legs in a safe position will help your nurse be efficient which can cut down the anxiety for your child.
- Have something for comfort or a special treat. A reward to look forward to helps us all have the courage to make it through a rough patch. It is ok to bring a comfort object like a special blanket or stuffed animal with you. Prizes from the dollar store or a trip out for ice cream helps my kids face shots more bravely.
What a privilege we have as parents to be able to protect our children from deadly diseases like whooping cough, measles, tetanus and hepatitis. I hope these tips help the day of your checkup go smoothly for you and your child.
Dr. Lauren Raimer-Goodman is a UTMB Pediatrician at Pediatric and Adult Primary Care, Friendswood.