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Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

April 26, 2022
How to make shots less stressful for kids
How to make shots less stressful for kids

The idea of a getting a shot can induce anxiety in some kids. Luckily, there are things we can do to relieve some of those fears and make the next vaccination appointment more comfortable for your little one. Here are tips on how to make shots less stressful, from child life specialists at Phoenix Children’s.

Before the shot

Being open and honest with your child is a great approach for helping them cope with anxiety around clinical visits – especially when they must receive a shot.

Communicate with them that the purpose of the shot is to keep them healthy and strong so they can continue doing all the things they love. Personalizing this conversation to your child can make it more meaningful.

Let them know it is okay to ask questions, and ask them questions about how they are feeling, too! Your child may be an information seeker or a distractor, so coping with anxiety around immunizations can look a few different ways.

Distractors:

If your child is someone who prefers to be distracted during a shot, let them choose how much they want to know. They may prefer to get the shot over with rather than ask questions about the process.

If this is the case:

  • Communicate your child’s preferences with the staff. For example, your child may not want a countdown before the poke, or maybe they want a heads up to look away.
  • Come equipped with one of your child’s favorite toys or activities. This way, they have something positive to focus their attention to during the visit.
  • Practice skills like deep breathing and counting backwards so your child can utilize these during the visit and shot.

Information seekers:

Perhaps your child is more of an information seeker and has curiosity around the nature of the visit and vaccination.

If this is the case:

  • Have a conversation with your child about what they will experience at the appointment – what the room might look and sound like, what types of people might enter the room before and during their shot, etc.
  • Does your child have specific questions for the clinical staff who will administer their vaccine? Have them write these down or communicate them with you so they feel part of the process.
  • Practice the process of getting a shot with your child. Show them how they might sit, where the shot will go and how the clinical staff will bandage them. Or, give a mock vaccine to a doll or stuffed animal.
  • Communicate with the staff that your child has questions and would be more comfortable if they walk through the vaccination process in advance.

During the shot

Although a shot may only take seconds, there are things you can do to ease your child’s anxiety during the quick process.

Distractors:

  • If needed, block your child’s view of the needle.
  • Play a game like iSpy to keep their mind busy.
  • Play a video or song on your smartphone or tablet for them to focus on.
  • Take deep breaths, count, or sing their favorite song with them.

Information seekers:

  • Have the staff give your child a job. For example, counting backwards, holding their breath, or holding a stuffed animal.
  • Have the staff talk through what they are doing and what your child may feel in real time.

After the shot

Communicate with your child that you are proud of them for being brave during their immunization.

Remind them that it will help keep them and others healthy and safe!

Rewarding your child with something special after the appointment can keep the experience positive. A trip to the park or allowing them to pick out a small toy from the dollar store can offer comfort and reassurance after this process.

Coping with anxiety around shots can be tough for some kids, but we can set them up with the tools to have a successful and positive clinical experience.

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