What can you do to start this process of scaring the scariness out of vaccines? I have some ideas.
First, and foremost, never assume it’s too early to start talking. I have been talking to my daughter about getting vaccines from the very first shot (yep, on day one). I know she didn’t understand, but I knew one day she would, and you never know which day that day will be. In my experience, the talking calms us both long before we walk into the doctor’s office and long after we leave.
Once you’ve started talking, put yourself at ease by getting educated. Know your stuff; as I said, education reduces fear, and your lowered stress level will help lower your child’s stress level.
Speaking of stress, both of you need to find a way to be calm. My kids love squeezing little squishy animals. We also love doing yoga, practicing calming breaths, and watching snow globes. The doctor’s visits don’t have to be dreaded days, try to keep them low stress for everyone; that includes you. They most definitely pick up on your cues.
Soon your children will be old enough to understand basic concepts, so give them those concepts. Be honest. For example, you may want to say: “yes, shots hurt a little bit. But, they won’t hurt for very long after. And people used to get very sick and sometimes die from horrible diseases, but now we have vaccines to keep us from getting all of the horrible diseases. You’re so smart to get your vaccines and stay healthy!”
Show your children what the diseases the vaccines prevent look like and what they can do. As your child grows you can dive deeper into this, but the point is to get them to understand that the disease is much worse than getting than the vaccine.
Be completely honest with your child. If the check-up is coming up and you know your child will be getting shots. Say so. There should not be any surprises when it comes to getting vaccines. Telling your child you’re off to the store and then showing up at the doctor for shots is not the way to rid needle anxiety. If you’re honest, even if they’re scared about it, at least they will know what to expect.
After letting your child know the doctor visit is coming, make sure you have the time to sit down and talk about what will be happening at the appointment. There is nothing worse than being kept in the dark about something that can be very scary for a young child.
Rewards are fine and good! If your child has something nice to look forward to such as ice cream or the playground, then the shots might not seem so bad.
Kind words following the appointment will help set up for the next appointment. You could say something like, “Aren’t you so happy that you got your vaccines so now you won’t get very sick with the flu? A virus that can make you throw up and even put you in the hospital. Yuck! You’re so smart to get that vaccine!”
Lastly, keep the conversation going. Answer all of your little ones’ questions, and if you don’t know the answers, be honest. Say: “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I am going to find out the answer for you.”
Then, come ask me. 🙂