Tips to Keep Your Kids Calm While Getting Shots

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In my post, "Ouch! Prepare Your Child to Get Shots", I gave parents tips on how parents can prepare their child for a doctor's visit to get a shot.

The key is to remain calm and be honest so your child can learn to build trust in their medical care providers—trust which will carry over into adulthood.

This post discusses detailed strategies to use during the visit, as well as how to appropriately reward good behavior after the appointment.

It also helps to focus on the small things that were done to make your child feel better.

During and After the Visit

Playing "Good" Parent vs. "Bad" Nurse or Doctor Telling your child that the doctor or nurse is "bad" or "mean" could ultimately result in their distrust of health care providers.  You may want to explain to your son or daughter that any treatment given to them by their doctor and nurse is out of concern for their health.

It also helps to focus on the small things that were done to make your child feel better. Try saying one of the following:

  • "Thank you, Nurse Laurie, for caring so much about Linda and trying to keep her healthy."  
  • "Thank you, Nurse Laurie, for caring so much about Linda and giving her such a nice Band-Aid and sticker."

Taking Ownership of the Band-Aids

One strategy parents can use is to have the child bring special Band-Aids to put on after the shot, such as bandages featuring a favorite cartoon character.

Keeping Your Cool

In my previous post, I included a list of emotional don'ts for parents to remember during and after the doctor's visit. Using a parent's calming physical presence, some children prefer to sit in the parent’s lap for the shot.

If your child does not want to sit for the shot, you may be very clear and offer the child 2 choices only. This limits the child's options, but allows them to feel in control of the decision.  The offer can go something like this:

"Shelli, there are only 2 choices. You can sit on the chair for the shot or you can sit on my lap."

Distraction During the Appointment

When you arrive for the appointment, distract your child.  Bring a book to read, a coloring book, a handheld video game, or play a game of "I Spy."

When the shot is over…

Maintain your calm, matter-of-fact attitude. It's OK to give your child a big hug and kiss, and maybe take your child out for a small treat. 

I recommend keeping the treat small and not making a big deal about the appointment.  Making a bigger deal can mean that your child may try to barter for a treat every time they have a routine doctor’s visit. However, celebrating a successful trip to go get shots would be a great excuse to take your child to the park for a day of fun!

What better way to reinforce the idea of good health?  

What’s Your Favorite Strategy?

If you have a favorite strategy for getting your kids through a tough visit to the doctor, please share it with me here so that I, along with other parents, can learn from your experiences.