Child Sense: Taking the argument out of getting shots

Posted Feb. 18, 2013, at 10:40 a.m.

The debate about vaccines is in the news again due to a recent study showing that more than half of children are either undervaccinated or running late with vaccines. Running late is sometimes a function of simply dreading the shot. This week we’re going to touch on how to make the trip to the doctor for that vaccine as pain-free as possible.

For tactile children, less is more. Make it clear that the vaccine is non-negotiable, in a firm but clear way. Explain to them that while getting a shot may be unpleasant, it’s to protect them from getting really sick. Talk about the physical aspects of being sick. They could be stuck in bed and unable to run, itchy all over or unable to play with other kids for weeks, have to stay in a darkened room, etc. Make sure you’re clear about which vaccines they receive, as you don’t want a child feeling betrayed when they get a common cold. Reward them with lots of cuddles and a treat, because for a tactile child any pain inflicted on their body is taken very personally. Make sure they know it’s for the greater good.

For the visual child what they see is often worse than how they feel, so take along a number of distractions — an iPad with their favorite movie, or a good story book. Do your best to not have them see the needle. Most pediatricians’ offices are willing to hide the shot when asked. Talk about how brave they are in public, and take them for a treat after to reward their bravery. For very resistant visual children, you might consider showing them pictures of what children or people look like with the diseases they are being vaccinated for, because the thought of looking like these children will certainly persuade them to be brave.

The logical brain of the auditory child will respond to comparisons and similar protective patterns. Using examples from their everyday life like, “We put a seat belt on even though it feels uncomfortable, because it save us if there is an accident,” or, “Putting on sunscreen feels pretty yucky, but it stops us from getting burnt and sore.” Then explain, “The shot works in the same way — it’s unpleasant for a short time, but protects us from something much worse.” They will have lots of questions, so be prepared to answer calmly. They also may need to talk about it afterward, so make time to listen to their story as many times as they need to tell it.

For a child sensitive to taste and smell, a little imagination can go a long way. Try a “magic skin numbing cream — that the fairy uses to stop the shot from hurting.” Your taste-and-smell child will be overly emotional, so any little crutch you can give, all the better. Distract them by talking about the things and people they love. Have them watch a cartoon or read a book about a favorite character getting shots, or even better, make a book yourself. Be calm and kind, don’t encourage their overreaction, but also don’t diminish their feelings.

Priscilla Dunstan, creator of the Dunstan Baby Language, is a child and parenting behavior expert and consultant and the author of “Child Sense.” Learn more about Dunstan and her parenting discoveries at childsense.com.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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