Time to talk shots and not the fun kind. My littles are both getting their flu shots next and I’m getting mine today. It breaks my heart to watch them get shots. I am a big proponent of the flu shot though and doing every thing we can to protect ourselves during cold and flu season.
As I have been practicing mindful and respectful parenting, I have learned some things about the shot process that help it go a little smoother for us.
1. Coach your pediatrician on speaking to your child and talking them through what they are going to do them. My pediatrician does this without any prompting but I’ve heard from other parents that this isn’t always the case. Find someone your child can connect with and who shows them respect. This is part of body autonomy too but also helps to build trust between your child and their pediatrician.
2. Know thy kid. Max does better with a little prep. We have talked off and on this week about how we will be getting his flu shot at his next appointment to help keep him healthy. I answer any questions he has honestly. Does your kid need to know a few days before or not until the day of?
3. Don’t lie! Shots hurt. When we tell our children they aren’t going to (or a well meaning staff member does) it might work once but they remember next time. Let’s stop ourselves from downplaying. I’ve never had a shot that feels like “a little pinch”. Most hurt for a minute and some even burn a bit. I simply tell Max, “You’re are going to get a shot now. It will hurt but not for very long. I’m right here with you. Would you like to hold my hand?” I’ve been using this line with him in the same calming tone since he was born. Long before he could understand what I was actually saying, we were laying the groundwork.
4. Take steps to control your own response. Take deep breathes and practice remaining calm so they can too. They need us to show them that it’s okay. We have things under control. (Even when I’m faking it and want to cry with them!) I really do believe that young children and babies respond to our emotions. When we can calm down, it helps them calm down.
Shots are never fun and no matter how much we prep, it still might not go well. Max told me just this morning that he didn’t want to get his flu shot and told me he wasn’t getting the flu so he’d didn’t need it. Sometimes parenting is about the long term though. Even if today doesn’t go well, I’m confident that being upfront with him, is the right call for our relationship. I want my little to know when I describe how something is going to happen, there are no tricks. While quick tricks and distractions might work in the short term, in the long term they can erode trust and make the process even harder.