Ouch! Prepare Your Child for Shots



How many times have you been in the waiting room at your pediatrician's office and heard crying from a child in another room?  Maybe the sound even prompted your child to ask why the other child was crying.

Pop Quiz for Parents

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you ever told your child getting shots from needles will NOT hurt?
  • Have you ever blamed the "mean" nurse or "bad" doctor for giving your child a shot?
  • Have you ever answered "no" when asked by your child if he or she will get a shot at the doctor's office today even when you knew the answers was “yes”?

If you've answered "yes" to any of the questions above, I'm asking parents to consider a more honest approach with children about shots at the doctor’s office.

It’s tempting for parents to reassure their children with half-truths to get them through a potentially painful doctor’s visit. Parents may not realize they could unknowingly be contributing to their child's future reluctance to see a doctor. As an adult, your child may hesitate to visit the doctor when hesitation could mean disaster.

There are alternatives for parents who want to make a doctor’s visit less overwhelming for both parents and children.  This first post will discuss how to prepare for the upcoming appointment. A follow-up post will address tips for how best to handle your child during and after the visit.

Your child needs to know exactly when he or she WILL be getting a shot and will NOT be getting one in order to build trust in the medical staff.

Before the Doctor's Appointment

Be Honest Without Scaring Your Child

Your child needs to know exactly when he or she WILL be getting a shot and will NOT be getting one in order to build trust in the medical staff.

In the long run, this will help reduce your child's anxiety ahead of visits to the doctor’s office.

An appropriate description of a visit to the doctor for your child with a shot involved could go something like this: 

“Antonio, today you will be going to visit Dr. Thomas for your check-up. Dr. Thomas will check how tall you are and how much you weigh.  He'll also check your eyes and ears, listen to your heart and breathing and will ask you questions about yourself.  At the end of this, he'll give you a shot to keep you healthy." 

If your child asks if it will hurt, you can say, "It will hurt slightly for a very short time and then it will be done. After this, you'll get a Band-Aid."

The key is to remain calm while stating this because children very easily pick up on emotional clues.

Your child will still experience the pain of the shot, but will realize that they can trust you to warn them appropriately when something will hurt.

Give Short Notice

The amount of notice depends on the age and maturity of your child.  A younger child needs less time to prepare while an older child may need more time to prepare. In general, it would be appropriate to tell the child on the day of the appointment. You do NOT want to give your child TOO much time to think about and focus on the shot.

Don’t Get Emotional

It is best to remain extremely calm when telling your child it's time to get a shot.

Let your child know that children their age receive shots in order to be healthy.

Maintaining a peaceful attitude encourages the child to remain still and calm during their visit.

If your child panics or protests, remain calm and let him or her know that even though it might hurt, it will be over soon.

Here's a list of don'ts to keep in mind before, after and during the visit:

  • Don't go into a long explanation.
  • Don't debate.
  • Don't bargain.
  • Don't yell.
  • Don't show too much emotion.

Stay tuned for my follow-up post next week concerning tips parents can use during and after the visit!