An estimated 28 million children nationwide are expected to soon be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, pending the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for kids 5 to 11 in the coming weeks.
The annual flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months and older around this time of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is in addition to a variety of immunizations given throughout childhood to protect against potentially life-threatening illnesses.
While getting a shot can be nerve-wracking for many kids, as well as their parents and caregivers, medical experts say certain strategies and coping mechanisms can minimize a child’s anxiety and pain.
Applying some of these techniques can improve the vaccination experience in the moment as well as arm children with long-term skills to help them handle difficult or scary medical procedures throughout life, said Jennie Ott, director of child life and family education at University of Chicago Medicine.
“It’s very anxiety-provoking, but there’s so much parents can feel empowered to do,” she said. “We’re really setting a long-term foundation for children’s experiences with health care encounters.”
Here are 12 tips on how adults can help calm a child and ease their pain during vaccinations.
1. Make a plan. Talk ahead of time about the upcoming immunization, relay what the child can expect during the appointment, and allow them to ask questions, Ott said.
Going over various coping strategies beforehand can also help prepare children and give them a greater sense of autonomy, she said.
“What I would encourage parents to do is work with their child to come up with a plan,” she said. “Talking to them about their vaccine is going to be a critical piece in this.”
That might mean deciding to bring comforting or distracting items, like a favorite television show on a tablet, soothing music, a security blanket, a favorite stuffed animal or a stress ball.