It’s been nearly 2 years since the COVID-19 pandemic turned our lives upside down. Along the way there have been so many surreal moments, worries, tears, and even bursts of relief. I will never forget the sense of relief and safety that entered our lives a year ago when adults began to receive their initial vaccines.
Mixed in with that relief was anxiety as I sat down to receive my own vaccine. I vulnerably voiced my needle nerves to my nurse during my first dose and he validated my experience by responding “most of us have needle and shot trauma from childhood”.
So many children, and even adults, fear needles and shots. Parents are told to hold down scared children as medical professionals stick needles into their legs. During the whole process parent’s nervous systems are activated instead of calming, the child’s nervous system is activated and everyone is in survival mode.
We recommend another way. With the COVID-19 vaccine being such an anticipated event, we now know that preparation can give our kids a positive experience and spare them a lifelong fear of shots! So read on to learn how to prep your child for the covid-19 vaccination (or any vaccination for that matter!).
If you have read my blogs before, I may sound like a broken record. But this is just too important of a step not to mention. Kids borrow their regulation from the adults around them. This is especially true for their attachment figures. And they are MASTERS at identifying incongruences. If you are smiling and saying “you’re fine” but you are experiencing everything but, this will confuse your child. Incongruence=danger! So be sure that you are breathing, and feel safe. You want to convey with words and body “you are safe”.
Tell your child what the plan is and what vaccine day will be like. One of the brain’s threats to survival is unknown. So make sure your child knows what to expect. Will they be getting the vaccine at a hospital or the pharmacy? On a school day or weekend? Role-play what it will be like. Every detail from cleaning the arm with a cold wipe, to taking a big breath. My daughter and I have been going all out with playing vaccination (I even have a play syringe!). She has started to build up her confidence by playing nurse on her 2 year old sister! Most importantly’ do not tell your child it won’t hurt, because it might! By telling our kids the shot won’t hurt..and then if it does, this will only set us up to have to repair being dishonest. And it will backfire the next time your kid is at the doctor!
Name it to tame it
Talk to your child about how they are feeling about the vaccination. If your child is not sure, go ahead and guess! By validating those feelings, we actually calm the brain and create a feeling of safety. While you are having this important conversation with your child, let them know why you are having them get the vaccine. Values and decisions vary from family to family, and that is OK, just as long as you are letting your child know why getting this vaccination is so important.
This is an adult and parenting decision. No one likes to feel as if they have no choice, especially kids. In order to plan for the big day and to give your child a sense of control, offer them choices! Do they want to bring a special stuffed animal? Do they want to watch or close their eyes? Do they want to listen to music? Wear a fun outfit? There are endless creative ideas on how to give your child choice in this! Need more inspiration? Check out this super helpful handout: Vaccine Day Choices
Celebrate and Praise!
Your child was a vaccine superhero! This calls for a celebration! Do something special, whether it is going out for ice cream, going to that super fun park across town, or having funfetti pancakes for dinner. Praise your child for being so brave! This is a big deal!
I hope this guide not only helps you feel more prepared and confident about how to prep your child to get this historical vaccine, but I hope you are also inspired to use these tips for all future vaccines! Think about how you may use these tips to prep your 2 year old for wellness shots, or your older child for an allergy test! Want even more resources?! Check out this adorable book and informative children’s book, Baby Medical School: Vaccinations (buy here!).
You got this! I am so proud of you and so so proud of your kid! Add this to your list of pandemic parenting wins!