Help Little Ones Manage Vaccination Anxiety
Vaccinations may be a part of life, but many people experience anxiety leading up to the moment of receiving a shot. But children are often the most apprehensive about getting shots because of a lack of experience and not knowing what to expect. Parents can help to minimize the fear by working with children to help clarify what’s happening. Additionally, speaking with a pediatrician about best practices can also help make the vaccination experience more enjoyable for children and parents.
1. Minimize parental anxiety
Children are receptive to other people’s emotions. So, when parents are anxious, that emotional distress can easily transfer to children. Experts recommend that parents remain calm and try to control emotions so that children won’t pick up on those cues. Specifically, parents should try to maintain a neutral expression.
2. Avoid excessive verbal reassurances
Providing constant verbal reassurances that everything is okay can have the opposite effect. Children are incredibly perceptive. During normal times when anxiety triggers aren’t present, parents aren’t constantly offering reassurance that everything is okay. As a result, frequently noting that everything is fine magnifies the fact that a negative situation is about to occur. Again, parents should remain calm and maintain neutral expressions, behaviors, and conversations.
3. Consider redirection
Even for adults, getting a shot can be less than an ideal experience. So, for children, the event can be overwhelming. Trying to focus on something less anxiety-inducing can be a great way to get the shot without obsessing over the event. With children, try redirecting attention by talking about events of the day or a fun event that’s about to occur, such as a birthday party or family vacation. Other options can include engaging in songs, gentle games, and even showing children cartoons or a favorite television show to help keep little ones engaged and preoccupied.
Understand a child’s threshold
Ultimately, parents need to be aware of the total amount of stimulation that a child can endure. In some cases, a child might only be able to handle one shot per doctor’s visit. Therefore, parents might work with a pediatrician to safely spread out a vaccination schedule without compromising immunity. Also, consider asking a physician whether the shots can be given from least to most painful to help reduce discomfort. Additionally, avoid admonishing children as doing so can reinforce anxiety and make the situation worse the next time.