3 Ways To Prepare Your Kids For Getting The Covid Vaccine

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little girl getting a vaccine from a nurse

The COVID vaccine for kids is now available. 

No one likes needles. Some hate them. Most tolerate them as a necessity because we appreciate the benefits.

After all, from vaccinations to insulin shots, medication administered through needles save lives. But no one actually likes them. At least, no one I've ever met.

On top of the usual discomfort, people have around needles themselves, thanks to the anti-vax movement and social media, there's a boatload of skepticism and conspiracies around vaccines in the so-called "information age." 

RELATED: With Covid-19 Restrictions Easing, What Should Parents Do With Their Unvaccinated Kids?

So, with the approval of the Covid-19 vaccine for children 5 to 12 years of age, it's no wonder parents and children feel more than a little anxious about getting the shot.

But there are ways that parents can help their children learn to tolerate the needle.  

Now that the COVID vaccine for kids is available, here's how parents can prepare their kids for it.

1. Address your own fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Fear, uncertainty, and doubt, more than anything else, breeds fear and anxiety. Kids and adults like it when life is predictable, knowable, and understandable.

Maybe that's why everyone struggles these days with understanding vaccines and disease prevention.

When children frequently died of diseases like smallpox, rubella, and mumps before the age of five, parents understood what these diseases could do. They killed children.

Immunizations — medications that built up the body's immune response to give a child a better chance of fighting off an infection — literally saved lives.

What we know, after over 7 billion shots administered worldwide, is that the COVID-19 vaccinations are highly safe and effective at preventing death and severe illness from even the Delta variant of Covid-19. The same thing is true of the covid vaccine for kids. 

They give our bodies a fighting chance. Begin with getting certain that you know that you're doing the right thing to protect your child.

Get information from trusted, reliable, competent sources. Check the CDC website. You wouldn't look to the CDD for fashion advice. Don't look to social media for medical information.

RELATED: Essential Mental Health Tips For Kids & Parents Finally Going Back To School This Fall

2. Address your child's need to understand.

Knowledge is power! When you understand what's happening, you can cope, with many uncomfortable, but necessary things.

So talk to your children, calmly and confidently, because you've already addressed your own doubt and uncertainty already, you should feel and communicate calm confidence, right?

Tell them what's going to happen and when. Tell them you'll be with them. Give them as much information about the process, the place, and the details of what they will see, hear and feel (the sensory experiences) as you can.

Be as vivid and detailed as you can or as they need you to be.

This is a bit like creating a narrative of the experience. A story that helps them know what to expect.

And then answer their questions as honestly and completely as you can.

Will they need to wear a mask? Yes.

Will they have to wait in line? Most likely, yes. 

Will it hurt? Only for a moment.

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What will it feel like afterward? Your arm may feel sore and you may feel like you have a cold — or you may not. But there are medications that can help get rid of those feelings and you'll be with them to take care of them.

You may also want to plan something for after the shot. Stop to grab an ice cream or hot chocolate on the way home.

3. On the day of the vaccine, give yourself extra time before, during, and after the appointment.

When you rush, you feel stressed. Going into a challenging situation (remember, nobody likes needles!) feeling rushed feels stressful! And stress feels like anxiety, worry, and fear.

It's the same pool of emotional goo. You don't feel safe and want to either fight or flee.

So plan to take more time off than you might want to so you can leave early, stay calm, be supportive, and be truly present for your child.

That means providing the comfort and reassurances they need to manage their worries and cope with the challenge of getting the shot.

But, be warned! If you go into this prepared — feeling confident and with your child understanding what's going to happen — you may not have anything exceptional to actually do on the day of the appointment.

Of course, you'll be there with them, but they may actually not need you to do much else.

These processes will help you help your child through just about any novel, stressful event, or expectation that comes up in the future, so this may be a good time to practice now that the COVID vaccine for kids is here. 

RELATED: Experts Tell You What You Need To Know When You Or Your Loved Ones Have Covid-19

Judith Pinto is a Registered Occupational Therapist, Certified Clinical Anxiety Treatment Professional with extensive training in Emotionally Focused Therapy (ICEEFT). For more information, visit her website.