Probably one of the most challenging things as a parent is dealing with childhood vaccinations. I am not here to debate on whether you should or should not vaccinate your child. What I am here to discuss is how you deal with the reality of getting shots as your child grows.
In the beginning, it is pretty easy. Sure it’s heartbreaking to have to hold your baby still while they get a shot, but it beats them getting very sick with measles or mumps now or in their future.
But as the years go on, children become more cognizant of what is going on. I’ve learned the last couple months with my 4-year-old that we are now playing a whole new game with shots.
In April, we ventured to the doctor for her 4-year-old check up. Thinking this time might be different with shots, I started talking about it days before. I warned her about how the shots might happen. She was not ok with it, but at least we talked through it so she was better prepared.
Last week we went to the doctor because her older brother was sick. While we were there, the doctor asked if I wanted them to get flu shots since we were there. Of course I said yes because I had the flu last spring and that was awful. I’d hate for them to get that. So, my 11-year-old tried so hard to be brave for his younger sister. He tried to show her how it wasn’t so bad. Truth is, I still had to hold him down. But he hopped up and limped over and told her it wasn’t so bad. Needless to say, it didn’t help much. She flipped out when she was up next. Clinging to me, screaming. The nurse literally had to peel her off of me to get a leg and I still had to hold her down while she’s trying to kick and scream.
So I asked a few people what they have done with their own kids: warned them before or let it be a surprise? I’ve asked many people who are good friends if it changes over the years as they get older. Bottom line is it depends on your child. For the most part, moms say that talking with their child before hand and not having it be a surprise works the best. Even as they get older, shots sometimes do not get easier for children. Be open, be honest. The older they get, they will be able to understand that it is just a little poke that will prevent them from getting very sick.
A few ways to help your child cope with getting shots.
- Explain why it is important to get a flu shot. Try to help them understand that by getting the flu shot, it is helping them stay healthy and feeling good.
- Role play with your child so they know what to expect. Get out the play medical kit and a stuffed animal and play doctor. Come up with ways that will help “the bear” stay calm. What can “the bear” do to help themselves feel better.
- Similar to above, have a plan. What can you and your child do to help them cope. Are there things that would help distract the child. Bring a toy where they have to breath to get it to move (ie. pinwheel). Do they like to look at books or a show? Practice these things during the medical play above.
- Be honest. Be positive. Your child may remember what it feels like to get a shot. Make sure to remind them how the poke will hurt at first but it will not last, and it will go away quickly.
Whatever it is you choose to do, I would advise you to do what you believe would work best for your child. You know your child better than anyone else. You want to make sure they get precautionary measures like flu shots, etc. but their minds are sometimes too young to understand the importance. Find simpler terms for your why and be honest. Honesty, tried and true, is still the best policy no matter what your age!