The University of Kentucky Public Relations and Strategic Communications Office provides a weekly health column available for use and reprint by news media. This week's column is by Jennifer Guiliams, child and family life coordinator at Kentucky Children’s Hospital.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 8, 2021) — Getting a shot can be scary for a child. When children feel scared, they may act different from how they usually do or revert to younger behaviors. Many children will cry during immunizations. These reactions are normal responses to fear and pain.
It is important that you validate your child’s fears. Let your child know it is okay to be scared and worried. When talking with your child, give them honest information such as “shots can pinch but will not hurt for long.” Reassure your child that you will be with them and that getting a vaccine is a healthy choice to help protect them from getting sick.
You can support your child in many ways during a vaccination. Have your child bring comforting items, like a favorite book or stuffed animal. Talk to your child about how to cope during the vaccine. You can develop and practice a coping plan with your child before getting a shot. Ideas for positive coping include:
- Let your child choose whether to watch the vaccination or look away.
- Let your child choose whether to sit by themselves or on your lap. Children are more fearful when having to lie flat. Giving your child this choice can help them feel in control. Reassure them that as long as they can hold their body still, they can sit by themselves.
- Give your child a “job” during the vaccination, such as:
- Squeeze your hand or a stress item. (Have your child squeeze something and hold for five seconds, then release. Repeat three to five times.)
- Watch a favorite show on your phone or tablet as a distraction.
- Sing or listen to soft music.
- Count or recite ABCs.
- Tell a story about a favorite place or activity that includes sights, sounds, smells and feelings.
During the vaccination, caregivers can provide extra support by:
- Remaining calm. Your child will react to your stress and anxiety. If you are calm, it will help them feel safe and calm as well.
- Using a calming voice. Be patient and use supportive words.
- Reminding your child to hold their body (arm or leg) still. Some children may not be able to hold still on their own out of fear. Sitting in a caregiver’s lap may help.
- Using your coping plan with your child. Start before the injection and continue until it’s over.
- Reassuring your child that they are doing a good job and you are proud of them.
- After the shot, comfort your child and point out positive behaviors. If your child was crying but held still, let them know they held still very well. “I am so proud of you for doing your job and holding your body still today. You were very brave.”
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.