Most kids aren't excited about the idea of getting a shot, and as a parent, chances are that you don't feel much better about it than they do. Even if you have no fear of needles yourself, no parent wants to see their child scared or suffering. However, routine immunizations are an important part of your child's health, and you certainly should skip the shots out of fear, or sympathy for your child's fear. Instead, take a look at some tips that will help the next round of vaccinations go smoothly.
Tell The Truth
Never lie to your child about immunizations. Don't tell them that it isn't going to hurt – it probably will, and your child will be less likely to trust you next time if you lie to them. Also, don't use shots as a threat. Saying, "behave, or you'll get a shot" to a child who is acting up in the doctor's waiting room just teaches them to fear shots even more, because they'll see them as a punishment instead of a necessary medical procedure.
Instead, tell your child the truth. Yes, the shot might hurt, but it will protect them from diseases that could hurt a lot more, for a lot longer. Even toddlers can understand that if you put it into language that they'll understand. If you have lied in the past about whether a shot will hurt, admit it and apologize first. Then explain why the shots are important.
Your child may understand that the shots are supposed to protect them, but that doesn't mean that they'll be happy about it. You can't let your child refuse to get their immunizations, but you can offer your support to help them through their fears.
Don't say things like, "you're getting the shot, and that's that." You should be firm, but also validate their feelings. Let them know that while the shot is not negotiable, you understand that they're afraid and you want to make a plan to help them get through it. Ask your child for their input. How can you help? Would it be easier for them if the sit on your lap? Is there a stuffed animal or other comfort object that you could bring to the doctor's office to help them through it? Is there a small treat that you could offer after the shot that would help them feel better quickly? Your child might have their own ideas about what could help them through their immunizations, so it's important to get their input.
As you probably know from your own experience, in many cases the anticipation is worse than the event. Distracting your child from watching the doctor or nurse as they prepare and administer the shot can make the whole process much less painful.
If your child likes to play games on a tablet or smartphone, bring that along – those games can be very absorbing, as any parent who's tried to get their child to put the device down and come to dinner knows. You can also read a favorite book or sing a song together. The doctor won't mind. If you're offering a treat after the shot, make it something you can bring with you and hand to your child immediately after they've had their shot, like a juice box or a lollipop. The sweet taste is an instant distraction from the pain, especially for younger children.
Don't hesitate to ask the doctor or nurse at your pediatrician's office for help to get your child through the process as painlessly as possible – after all, they see lots of children get shots, and chances are that they have a few tricks up their sleeve. It's worth taking the time to make your child's immunizations go smoothly. Preventing a bad experience now could prevent worse needle phobias later.