It's flu season and that means it's time for your flu shot. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that everyone older than six months get a flu shot. Thankfully, this year it's easier and safer to get the flu vaccine from the comfort of your car at a drive-thru clinic. Before you head to your child's doctor, drive-thru clinic or local pharmacy, here are four tips to help prep your child for the flu shot or any vaccine from Child Life Specialist, Amelia Randag:
- How can parents/caregivers help ease their children's fear or anxiety when it comes to getting a shot?
- Parents should try to remain calm. Next, prepare your child for the steps involved in flu shots. You can do this by playing doctor and answering their questions honestly but calmly. Let your child use medicine syringes to practice giving their stuffed toy a shot.
- Make a plan and model good ways to hold still during flu shots. Give your child some control over the situation by offering choices, like would you like to watch a cartoon on my phone, or would you prefer to squeeze your teddy bear?
- Pro tip: distract your child with bubbles. The bubbles are not only relaxing to watch; they force children to breathe deeply in turn relaxing their muscles.
- What language is important to use when talking about shots/vaccines and what words should parents avoid?
- A lot of parents are afraid of how our children will respond, leading them to not tell their children about the shot or sometimes lie. Be positive and put your own worries aside. Make sure your child knows why flu shots are beneficial. Say, "Flu shots help keep us well!" Plus, avoid preparing your child too far ahead of time. If you've ever planned a vacation with a toddler, you've probably learned this before. Tell young children the day before. If your child asks if the shot will hurt, use language that is not threatening, like "everyone feels things differently.
- Many places, including Arkansas Children's, are offering drive-thru flu shot clinics for their patients. How can parents prepare their family for this type of experience?
- Bring things to keep your children busy in case there is a wait.
- Bring your children’s favorite comfort items to the flu clinic like a stuffed animal, bubbles, book, or stress ball.
- What can families do now to have a safe and healthy flu season?
- Model good practices such as hand washing and social distancing for your children. Children learn by watching what we do. Use immediate and very specific praise when your child does the correct thing. "You are really doing a great job of protecting yourself from germs by washing your hands just before we eat!" Children love attention, so we can use this to our advantage to get them to do what we want them to do!
If your pediatrician is at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, call 501-364-1202 and make an apt to get your flu shot. If you have an upcoming apt, be sure to ask your team for a flu shot when you visit.