My son is going to be 5 in May. At his well child visit, he’s going to have to get a bunch of shots. Is there any way I can prepare him for this? I don’t want him to be surprised at the doctor when the needles come out, but I also don’t want to scare him or get him too worked up ahead of time.
This is certainly one of those delicate balancing acts we must do as moms; to prepare our children for something like shots without letting the anticipation build up into fear. It’s natural that a child will have anxiety over receiving his vaccines, we shouldn’t ignore that feeling. However, there are several steps we can take before, during, and after those shots to help alleviate some of that fear and minimize the pain.
I’ve put together some DOs and DON’Ts for you to keep in mind when preparing your child for a well child visit that will include vaccines. It’s important to keep in mind your child’s temperament as some of these techniques may or may not work for him.
This is where your own motherly expertise will come in handy.
DO be honest: When explaining to your son that he will be going to the doctor for his check up, his first question will likely be “am I getting a shot?” Be honest and say yes. Which brings me to my next point.
DON’T give him too much time to stew on the information. Same day warning is a good enough time frame for five year olds. You don’t want your child spending the next few days obsessing and worrying about getting his shots. Anticipation is often the worst part.
DO explain his check up to him as a whole, with the shots being one aspect of his well visit. Let him know what he can expect: the doctor will listen to your heart, look in your ears, see how much you’ve grown, and yes at the end, you will get some shots.
DO explain why but keep it short. Tell him that vaccines help keep him healthy just like eating healthy foods, getting daily exercise, and getting enough sleep do. Avoid long explanations.
DON’T sugar coat it. He will undoubtedly ask if it will hurt. Be direct and matter of fact. Yes, it will hurt like a sting or a pinch but it will be over quickly.
DO BYOB: Bring your own band-aid. Here’s a chance to give your child some control over the situation. Let him choose a band-aid of his choice to use once the shots are over. He can even help put it on afterwards.
DO use distraction, especially while waiting to see the doctor. Bring books to read, coloring books, or play a game of I Spy to help pass the time.
DO use the “blow out the candle” technique. We did this for my son’s five year shots, and it worked like a charm. Have your child hold up his index finger and pretend it’s a candle. The nurse will help count down when to “blow out the candle”. He will get the shot as he is blowing. Yes, still some tears but I do believe it lessened the anxiety and pain somewhat.
I held my son on my lap during the shots. This also seemed to help him. Give your son the choice of your lap or the exam table.
DON’T pre-treat with Tylenol. This has been shown to reduce the immune response to vaccines. If your child develops a high fever or has swelling or pain at the site of injection, contact his doctor.
DO be generous with the hugs and kisses afterwards. Who knows, he may dart out of office as if nothing ever happened or he may need some extra TLC. Go with the flow.
DO reward him for being such a big boy. This kindergarten well exam and shots is a big milestone for five year olds, why not celebrate? This is a chance to spend the afternoon at the park or library and top it off with a little frozen yogurt treat afterwards. Let’s be honest, getting shots is no fun for anyone and ice-cream really does make everything better.
What techniques worked for your child when preparing him/her for shots?
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