Are children afraid to get vaccinated? Here are 3 easy ways for parents to help them
Few things are more difficult than trying to vaccinate a terrified, uncooperative child. I have seen children get stuck in a corner and refuse to move. I saw them struggling and screaming. And I seen them setting perfectly still, but crying all the time.
I am an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and have been a primary care pediatrician for over 25 years. I have encountered these situations thousands of times in my career.
Although getting vaccinated causes anxiety in most children, the level of anxiety can be reduced. As a parent, there are three things you can do to improve your child’s immunization experience. I call them “the three Ps”.
It is important to let your child know that they will be receiving vaccines, unless you know your child will have a severe anxiety response. You may think it’s best to keep upcoming vaccines hidden until your child gets to the doctor, but this approach can make them more anxious and less able to cope. Children need time to understand what is going to happen. Let them know the day of the visit, but with plenty of time to discuss it with them beforehand.
It is essential that you ask your child how he feels about receiving an injection. Giving them the opportunity to express their feelings can reduce the stress and anxiety they feel about it. Validate their feelings by telling them that you know needles can be a little scary, but then reassure them that they can handle it. Explain why they receive vaccines and emphasize that it is for their general good.
You must also describe precisely what will happen. For example, tell your child that the nurse is going to clean his arm with an alcohol swab, count to three, and then give the injection. It is often helpful to have a plan after vaccinations as well. For example, let your child know that they will be visiting a grandparent or going to the park. Try not to reward them with food, as this can inadvertently teach them to eat emotionally.
Giving your child basic information as well as the opportunity to express their feelings will save them from having to process everything that is happening at once. This often helps children cope better with the process.
As your child prepares for the vaccine, stay physically close to them. Speak to your child in a calm voice and remind him of the things you discussed at home. Let your child hug you with the opposite arm while they get the shot. That’s often all it takes to get them through.
Such support teaches children that you’ll be there for them when they need you, which builds safety. This security, in turn, gives them confidence to try things they might otherwise avoid.
To rent out
Once your child has had their injection, give them a moment to recover – about 30 seconds. Then tell them how successful they have been and how proud you are of them. Point out that they did something they didn’t want to do or didn’t think they could do.
It teaches children that they can do things even when they are scared or anxious. You can remind kids of this experience when they need to get vaccinated again — or if they’re scared or worried about something else, like public speaking or a school project.
Children are not small adults. They don’t always have the ability to know what they’re feeling or to express themselves when needed. It’s up to you to give them the opportunity and space to identify their feelings – and then help them validate those feelings.
Preparing your child for vaccines, staying close to them during the process, and praising them for a job well done will help them navigate this often difficult process with more confidence, courage, and assertiveness.
This article from The Conversation is published under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.