For many children, getting a vaccine creates lots of anxiety.

And that totally makes sense!

Think about it from your child's perspective — you're bringing them somewhere new and unfamiliar, they're expecting lots of pain, and, frankly, needles just look scary.

But, of course, there are things you can do as a parent before, during, and after the appointment to ease your child's vaccine anxieties:

1. Choose honesty & transparency.
Lying is perhaps the most common mistake parents make before taking their child to a vaccination appointment. To avoid creating a traumatic experience, it's best to be honest.

Simply explain that there will be a slight pinch but that it will only last for a moment. Try to help them understand why vaccines are important — to keep them from getting sick!

2. Avoid using scary words.
Words like "shot" and "pain" carry negative connotations that will only elevate your child's anxieties. Instead, use words like "vaccine" and "pinch" and reiterate the reason for the appointment.

3. Recognize their fears.
Telling your child "It's just a shot" or "It doesn't hurt that much" won't ease your child's nerves. They need to know that you care about their concerns.

Address their fears as valid and true, spending time talking through them with your child. Then, reaffirm why it's important to get vaccines and remind them that you'll be there with them the whole time.

4. "Practice" ahead of time.

Role-play vaccine practice is a wonderful way to help your child become familiar with the tools your Pediatrician will use. Take turns being "patient" and "doctor," giving one another shots with a toy medical kit or even a simple ball-point pen.

You could even use an alcohol wipe to clean the area and a band-aid afterward to prepare them for the entire process.

5. Opt for the familiar.
Although common pharmacies and drug stores offer children's vaccines, your child may feel more comfortable getting a vaccine from someone they've seen a few times already in a place that seems a little more familiar — like your Pediatrician's office!

6. Schedule strategically.
Avoid squeezing the appointment between school and soccer practice. Give yourself (and your child) plenty of time before and after the appointment. The last thing your child needs is to feel rushed — it will only make them more nervous.

7. Loop in your Pediatrician.
Let your Pediatrician know about your child's anxiety. Odds are, they'll have a handful of expert tips and tricks that can help.

8. Bring along a favorite comfort item.
For younger children, a favorite stuffed animal or book may provide the extra bit of familiarity and solace they need to get through the appointment. School-aged children may enjoy the distraction of a phone game or reading book.

9. Comfort with physical touch.
If physical touch is one of your child's love languages, give them the option to sit on your lap or hold onto your hand while the doctor gives them the vaccine.

10. Monitor your own anxiety.
It's never fun to see your child distressed or scared. But studies have proven that children can tell when you're nervous. Your child will likely mimic your behavior and attitude, so it's best to stay calm and relaxed.

11. Practice 3 deep breaths.
More often than not, the anticipation of a shot is worse than the shot itself. To reduce anticipatory nerves, try taking three long deep breaths with your child (and practice doing so at home beforehand).

12. Be gentle.
When your child is scared, they need your empathy and reassurance. Scolding and threatening your children when they try to fight the vaccine is a great way to create a serious phobia.

13. Give your child a choice.
Your child will develop a stronger sense of control and confidence if they're given choices throughout the vaccine process.

You'd be surprised how your child's nerves disappear when you let them choose the comfort item they'd like to bring, whether they want to watch the doctor poke their arm or look away, or the kind of reward they want after the appointment,

14. Reward them afterward.
Show your child how proud you are of their bravery with positive affirmation and a small reward. Offering your child stickers, icecream, or a trip to the park will help them build positive associations with the vaccines (which will make the process even easier next time).

Need to set up a vaccine appointment? Reach out to us through the Carolina Pediatrics patient portal.


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