From an interview with
Child Life Specialist
McLeod Children’s Hospital
Now that children aged 5-to-11 can get the COVID-19 vaccine, parents should consider a conversation to alleviate anxiety and prepare them for the vaccination.
Here’s a summary of Prescott’s comments:
When you’re trying to explain what a vaccine is, you can say something like,
“A vaccine is a special kind of medicine that teaches your body what certain kinds of the viruses are like and to protect you from the sicknesses that viruses can cause. You’ve already had some vaccines when you were very little, and they helped you stay healthy. The COVID-19 vaccine is new. This special medicine will teach your body what the coronavirus is like. Getting this new vaccine will help prevent you getting sick, and it help protect the people that you love. So, you’re basically like a superhero. After having the vaccine, ome people feel a little extra tired, achy or have a small fever. This is normal and it gets better in a day or two.”
When you’re going to the vaccination site (whether it’s the doctor’s office, pharmacy, community center or school) you can try to tell your child something like this.
“When we get there, we may have to wait our turn in line or stay six feet apart from everyone else, and while we wait, I might need to answer some questions, so you can look at a book, you can play a game on your phone, or you can even listen to your favorite song with headphones while we wait.”
You can help your child make that plan.
“Somebody might check your temperature when it’s time. Your job is to stand as still as a statue, and they’re going to hold the thermometer close to your head. It won’t touch you, and it only takes a few seconds. After you’re done, you can get your wiggles out by hopping in place, dancing, stretching or whatever you would like to do.”
Before you get the vaccination, you can explain,
“When it’s your turn, we’ll go together. We’ll see the doctor.
“When they’re ready to give you your vaccine, first, they’re going to clean a spot on your arm. This might feel cold or wet, and the skin cleaner might even have a funny smell.
Next, they’re going to use a tiny needle to put the vaccine in your arm, and this is what’s called an injection. Some people think injections feel like a poke and other kids say it feels just like a pinch, and you can be in charge of telling me what it feels like for you. The injection only takes a few seconds and then the needle comes out and gets thrown away and you get to choose your Band-Aid. After that, we’ll wait for 15 minutes, and then we can go.”
Basically, offering reasonable choices is really important for kids. Some examples of these choices might be:
“Do you want the injection in your left arm or in your right arm? Or should we sing a song, or tell you a story while you get your injection? While we wait in line, you can even listen to music or look at a book.”
You are the expert on your child, and if your child gets overwhelmed when they’re asked to make decisions while they’re stressed, that is okay. You can make the plan based on what has worked best for your child in the past.
For more information on COVID-19 vaccine, click here.