Having your child immunized against crippling or deadly preventable diseases is very important. Vaccinations protect people against catching viral infections that can devastate a family, and doctors recommend a schedule of immunization for all children. During the early months, babies receive their vaccinations with nearly no complaint, and the slight, temporary pain of the needle’s prick causes hardly any discomfort. However, as a child grows, sometimes so do their fears, and having your child immunized when they begin to be more aware of situations and are of age to protest can turn into quite a struggle. If you are a parent of a child who has developed a fear of vaccinations, you need to help them deal with their emotions while still making sure they are protected against deadly diseases.
There are many reasons why children develop fears in the first place. Perhaps they have lived through a traumatizing event and remain marked by the upset, or they may have witnessed someone else going through a traumatizing experience. Even television can end up providing children with their fears, by the child having glimpsed a show where a traumatizing event was going on. Whatever the reason your child, understand and recognized that the feelings of anxiety and paranoia attached to fears are very real and should not be dismissed.
One tried-and-true method some parents use is to inform the child of the doctor’s appointment, but not the reason why. Telling a child that the doctor wants to make sure they are healthy is a good way around giving out too much information about the impending vaccination. The child will have no extended time to create horrific scenarios in their head before even arriving at the doctors’ and fears will not be able to feed on themselves, becoming larger than they need to be. Often the fear is more of the impending ‘doom’ of the needle and not the needle or the pain itself.
Children will take their cues from you, so if you are calm and collected, they will be too. After all, if Mommy or Daddy is smiling and is accepting of the doctor and what he has to do, the child will process that information. While it may not make them feel the situation is pleasant, your outward expression and tone of voice goes a long way to reassuring your child that everything is all right.
At the same time, be honest about the situation, but do not exaggerate. Telling children ‘this won’t hurt’ is not true – a needle piercing skin does hurt and they will feel betrayed by your well-intentioned lies. As a result, everything you say becomes subject to question and scrutiny, so never break your child’s trust in your word. Do keep the words you use at their level and do not confuse children with terms they do not understand. Explain why they need the vaccination, and what happens if they do not have it. Also, explain that it is okay to be a little bit afraid (but at the same time, make sure not to give them a hidden message that there’s something to be afraid of!) and it is all right to feel like crying. The point is, they do not have to enjoy vaccinations, but they do have to have them.