"When children were distressed prior to the needle, that made them feel more pain after the needle," said Pillai Riddell in a press release about the study. For example, telling children repeatedly that “it’s okay” or “it’s going to be okay,” often makes them feel anxious because, Pillai Riddell said, “parents only say things are 'okay' when things are not ok.”
Many caregivers, however, were able to teach effective coping mechanisms for dealing with vaccinations. When caregivers displayed better coping mechanisms at the 12-month appointment, children showed less distress and lower levels of pain during their preschool vaccinations.
If you want to help your children deal with shots, it’s important to teach them coping behaviors that do not increase their level of anxiety or minimize how they are feeling.
To help children cope with vaccinations:
- Encourage them to take deep breaths to help them stay calm.
- Tell them to take a deep breath before and let it out slowly during the shot in order to relax their muscles.
- Distract them with a game, video, or book during the vaccination.
- Make funny faces or sing your child’s favorite song.
- Give them something positive to think about while the shot is happening by discussing what you will do for the rest of the day.
Avoid behavior that contributes to children’s anxiety or distress, such as:
- Making critical statements like, “Boys don’t cry” or “It’s not a big deal.”
- Apologizing that the child must get a shot.
- Acting tense or upset yourself either before or after the shot.
- Arguing with the staff or prolonging the process.
When children learn effective coping behaviors, it does more than minimize the pain they feel and make visits to the pediatrician more pleasant. Researchers found that these coping skills impact children beyond the doctor’s office, influencing their relationships and cognitive abilities well into childhood.
By teaching children how to stay calm and deal with a distressing event, you are giving them a valuable life skill.
February 27, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN