⚠ COVID-19 INFORMATION: Resources, Vaccine Information

Tips For How To Prepare Your Child for the COVID-19 Vaccine

Flu Recommendations – Get Vaccinated!
November 03, 2021

This November, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was approved for individuals ages 5-11. While this may be welcome news for many parents, lots of children experience appropriate anxiety regarding receiving a shot. Some children also have sensory needs that can make receiving the vaccine difficult. Becca Mitsos, Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS), shares some simple tips and reminders to help make your child’s COVID-19 vaccine as easy as possible.

Your child has probably been hearing a lot about the COVID-19 vaccine.  Even though a vaccination or shot may seem like a minor medical encounter, it is normal for your child at any age to be hesitant or nervous. Lurie Children’s Child Life Specialists encourage you to support your child by first and foremost sharing honest information with them, and reminding them it is okay to feel scared and that you will be there for them. Remember, feelings are for feeling, not for fixing – it is appropriate for a person at any age to cry when nervous or scared.

Your child can make several choices during their appointment to increase their sense of control and understanding during a potentially uncomfortable medical encounter. Empowering your child with appropriate choices supports their sense of control while also setting compassionate boundaries around what choices they get to make.

“Encounters like these can be opportunities for parents and caregivers to validate their child’s feelings by saying, ‘I get nervous before shots, too,’” shares Child Life Specialist Becca Mitsos. “If you know your child has particular difficulties with injections, we encourage you to engage them in a discussion before arrival at the appointment about what they feel can help them during the injection.”

Lurie Children’s Child Life Specialists also recommend being honest if your child asks if it will hurt. “You can share it may feel like a pinch that will last about 5-10 seconds, and then encourage your child to think about what they may want to hold, look at it, or listen to. In the same way you can’t build an emergency plan during an emergency, encouraging a child to develop their coping “tool kit” before they need it helps them feel empowered, in control and builds resilience. This can and will ultimately help them manage other uncomfortable situations in the future,” says Mitsos.

Choices that your child will have look like this:

Decide what you want to see.

  • I want to watch the nurse give me the shot.
  • I want to look out the window or at my family.
  • I want to close my eyes.
  • Something else. Write it here!

Decide what you want to hear.

  • I want to hear someone counting quietly.
  • I want to hear my favorite song.
  • I want to hear a funny joke.
  • Something else. Write it here!

Decide what you want to hold.

  • I want to hold __________________’s hand.
  • I want to hold my favorite toy or stuffed animal.
  • I want to hold a stress ball or play-doh.
  • Something else. Write it here!

Other key things to remind your child to help them cope with getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Doing something that can be uncomfortable, like getting a shot, can make anyone nervous, no matter how old they are.
  • We are working together to help keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. Getting vaccines is one way we show that we care about each other, just like when we cover our mouth when we cough.
  • It is normal for your child to feel nervous. Even people who work in healthcare get nervous before medical care. Thank them for sharing those feelings with you, remind them that those feelings are normal, and that you will be with them every step of the way. Hearing and acknowledge them, try not to focus on fixing them.
  • Crying is an appropriate way for anyone to express fear, nervousness, confusion, concern, sadness, anger and frustration. Crying does not mean you are any less mature and brave.
  • When in doubt, focus on your breath – feel it come in through your nose, and out through your mouth.

Mitsos explains, paraphrasing a quote from Janet Lansbury- “No one who cares for a child can say they’re unbothered by a child’s emotional distress. While it is easy to feel tempted into trying to distract a child with games, songs, toys, or a screen, to discount their feelings by repeatedly saying, ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, don’t cry!’ discounts their feelings – we need to allow them to express how they feel, listen to understand how they feel, and avoid erasing or invalidating their feeling,”.

Addressing Sensory Needs

For children and adolescents with unique sensory needs, below are a few considerations to keep in mind. 

  • Is it helpful for your child to know and/or watch what happens?
  • Is it helpful to tell them about the smell of the cleaning wipe?
  • Is it helpful to set expectations regarding how much time a part of care will take?
  • Would your child benefit from additional pain management, like cold spray or Buzzy Bee?
  • Will your child tolerate a band-aid?

Vaccine Tip Sheets

Click on the below links to download our vaccine tip sheets created by our child life specialists. 

Lurie Children’s is here to partner with you and your child to help every experience be as positive as possible. We are so proud of our patients that take steps towards not just protecting themselves but their families and communities by getting the COVID-19 vaccine. For more information about finding a vaccine appointment, visit luriechildrens.org/vaccine.

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