We can all agree that immunization shots hurt! Even though they are very important and they protect against dangerous diseases, taking them can be quite a stressful experience for parents and children. Fortunately, there are some very helpful ideas you can try to make the experience less nerve-racking for both you and your little one.
As they say, it's the little things that matter the most. How you talk about shots, how scared or stressed you appear before they get their shots, how you can distract them from the sting of the syringe, all play a role in making the experience better or worse.
Here are eight ways to make your child's shots less stressful:
1. Remain Calm: This is the first, most important way to keep your child relaxed. Children are very intuitive and pick up on tension and bad "vibes" instantly. This influences how they react to any situation. So, a parent's emotions have a direct effect on their child's emotional state. If you start to get anxious about your child's experience, she will begin to feel insecure, and eventually, stressed about the situation. But if you remain calm and relaxed, the child will get feel a lot more secure and at ease while getting the shot.
2. Carry a Security Blanket:
Kids usually form bonds with some items that they use regularly. It could be a favorite pacifier, a stuffed toy they like, an item of clothing, or even a blanket. Taking these objects along when going to get a shot will help keep your little ones calm because they will have something familiar with them in a new and intimidating environment. If your child doesn't have an obvious favorite, let her pick something to take along, regardless.
3. Be Honest: This is very important, especially with older children. Let them know what to expect. Explain to them why the shot is necessary and be honest about the fact that the shot is going to sting. Reassure them that this pain won't last long and will go away in a day or so. Knowing what is coming helps children mentally prepare themselves for the experience, no matter how old they are.
4. Use a Sweet Distraction:
If there was ever a time that bribing children with candy was okay, this would be it! Actually, it's not so much a bribe as it is a reward for being brave. Let your little one pick out any candy of their choice on the way to the clinic and let them nibble on sweet treats after they get their shots.
5. Use Laughter:
Laughter is the best medicine, they say. In fact, as a parent you probably know there are few things that bring relief as quickly as laughter does – it the best distraction there is. Use your funny side and make your child laugh off the pain. Using jokes, funny stories and songs will keep your little soldier distracted and hopefully, you all can leave the place laughing instead of crying.
6. Offer them a Good Reward Time: Giving your little one something to look forward to after the shots are done is a great way to keep them motivated. It can be a toy they have been wanting, a book, a new set of crayons or even a small budget shopping excursion. Be sure to choose something that is a guaranteed motivator for your child.
7. Always Go to the Same Place:
A lot of parents make the mistake of going to different clinics to keep their kids in the dark about shots for as long as possible! But going to the same place is a better bet. Telling your child she is going to get shots at a familiar clinic will turn out to be much more comforting for her.
Familiar places are less likely to stress children out and you have a higher chance of having a calmer experience. If possible, try to get the same doctor or nurse to administer the shots each time.
8. The Aftermath: The stress doesn't end with the shot. How you comfort your child after the shot, is what she will remember the next time she needs vaccines!
For older kids, you can have a bit of a "de-briefing" by asking them to describe their experience. Encourage them to tell you how they felt at the time and ask them for ideas on what you can do differently next time to make the experience better for your little one. Younger children will need rewards, treats as explained above, and some quality cuddling.
Making shots less stressful won't happen if you just do one thing - it's all of the above! It's about being there for your child, and keeping her involved in the complete experience before, during and after.
Now that you have these tricks up your sleeve, getting shots shouldn't be as bad. Be assured that your little one will leave the clinic with the fewer tears shed. All the best!