Tips to prepare for your child's vaccinations

Emmy Samtani
Emmy Samtani
Emmy is the founder of Kiindred and mother to 3 little ones. Over the last 4 years, she has worked with some of the most credible experts in the parenting space and is a keen contributor on all things parenthood.
Created on May 24, 2024 · 6 mins read

Half the battle of getting your child vaccinated is figuring out how to pull it off without this tiny kid having a major freakout.


The studies, stats, and real-life stories all point to the immense value of immunisations; especially as we enter flu season. For our children, the flu can have serious, life-threatening consequences. The flu shot (and other vaccinations) save lives – your family’s and the families of people you’re in contact with.

But as important as it is, the logistics of getting your child through a vaccination can lead to nervous-parent procrastination. From explaining vaccinations to managing your child’s emotions before and afterward, it’s not always something you can just show up for.

Like anything in parenting, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

We know that this is a hurdle many parents face. We also know that getting vaccinated in time for flu season is critical to keeping our young ones and their community safe.

So, this article points to practical tips that prepare you for handling your child’s vaccinations – before, during, and after.

 

Invite them to share what they know


Kids pick up a lot more than we think. Even if you believe you’re working with a clean slate, they’ve likely already got some fears or preconceived ideas around vaccines.

Maybe they have bad memories from a previous vaccination.

To get to their level, we first need to understand where they are. Ask them questions like:

  • Have you had a vaccine before?
  • What did it feel like?
  • How do you feel about getting vaccinated?

Your child might reveal fears or nervous thoughts they have. It’s important to empathise with them and validate those feelings so that they feel safe to share.

From those insights, you can build a strategy to support them and make their vaccination a tantrum-free breeze.

Explain it to them with age-appropriate honesty


The urge to sugarcoat is strong for every parent. Needles, sickness, and hospitals – those themes can feel a bit heavy for our little ones.

Honesty is the best path here, but you can tailor your answers to be more digestible for your child’s age.

For instance, you could explain the vaccine by saying:

“You know how sometimes we go to the doctor to stay healthy? Well, one of the important things we do is get vaccinated. It’s like giving our bodies a special shield to fight off germs that can make us sick. When we get vaccinated, it helps our immune system become strong so we can stay healthy and keep our friends and family safe too.”

You want to prepare your child properly for what to expect from their vaccination. Avoiding language like “It won’t hurt” or “You won’t feel a thing.” Those phrases may come naturally to reassure, but they may make your child react more to pain as they don’t expect it. The other consequence could be your child losing some trust in you.

Instead, say something like, “You might feel a pinch, but it’ll be over before you know it.” It realistically prepares them by acknowledging the bit of pain, while still taking the fear out of it.

It’ll also be helpful to lay out what they can expect step-by-step in the appointment. Where it will be, when, and what the health professional will do.

Go somewhere familiar


A vaccination appointment can already have plenty of uncertainties for your child.

You can make that anxiety a little smaller by booking the appointment at your normal health practitioner so that they have a familiar face looking after them.

The other perk is that the team there, or the person administering the vaccination, will know your child and how to uniquely support them. They might know if your child likes silly noises, or Wiggles band-aids. Or perhaps prefer less stimulation. Your family GP, nurse, or health provider might have more luck helping your child relax.

Prepare distractions


The power of redirection. Your child might be less meltdown-inclined when they have some comfort items keeping them calm.

Bring books, toys, or games for reassurance and fun.

You can also redirect their attention by counting, singing a song they love, having conversations about their favourite things, or asking about something they’re looking forward to.

If you manage to move their mind elsewhere, the vaccination will be over in a heartbeat.

Stay calm and positive


When our children want to know how they should feel, they take their cues from us. How are we reacting to the situation? Are we scared or worried?

By keeping your cool and staying positive (whilst still leaving room for validating feelings), they’ll likely relax and settle. You want to be the reassuring presence that lets them know everything will be okay. That isn’t always easy if you’re feeling rushed, overwhelmed, and at your wit’s end – so do what you can to be as prepared and unhurried as possible on the day of the vaccinations.

You can also take this opportunity to show your child relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises, and talk them through how they can handle nerves.

Give them some control


As we mentioned before, vaccinations can have a lot of uncertainties for kids.

It can help to give them some control over the situation through offering choices. These can be small decisions that make them feel a bit more empowered.

You could ask them:

  • ”Would you prefer to sit on mum or dad’s lap?”
  • “Would you like to play a game or read a book while you get your vaccine?”
  • “Do you want mum to talk to you or give you some space?
  • “What do you want to do after your vaccine?”

Control can be what makes an appointment go from feeling “big and scary” to actually manageable.

Plan a reward


It always helps to have something to look forward to! Your child will be calmer, better behaved, and have positive associations to the experience.

Their reward might be an episode of their favourite TV show or movie, playing a game with friends, munching on a treat, or getting to choose which songs you listen to on the drive home (get ready for a lot of Taylor Swift).

It could even just be picking out a special bandaid or fun sticker from the doctor.

Wrapping it up


Maybe you’ll get to the appointment and your child will take it like a champion. You might be surprised! But if things do get tricky, these tips should help guide you through the chaos.

Most importantly, scheduling a timely influenza vaccination for your child is the best way to protect them, your family, and your friends this flu season. Young children are particularly at risk of complications from the virus, so don’t take your chances.

A vaccination might just feel like another thing to add to your already long parental ‘to-do list’, but it’s the most effective thing you can do to protect your family against a life-threatening case of the flu.

So, book your appointment, remember these tips, and keep your family safe.

Sources:


https://www.health.gov.au/topics/immunisation/vaccines/influenza-flu-vaccine

https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/contents/vaccine-preventable-diseases-influenza-flu

https://www.health.gov.au/news/time-to-get-your-flu-vaccine

https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/recommendations/women-who-are-pregnant-are-recommended-to-receive-influenza-vaccine-in-each-pregnancy

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