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How to prep your toddler for a vaccine



Lying is not advisable

Prep your toddler for a vaccine


It’s easy to lie to a toddler or preschooler, and it can be hard to explain complex things like the reasons for vaccinations. Or, rather, “getting a shot.” 

The very word “shot” is unfortunate, because it immediately conveys violence. “You’re getting a shot in your arm with a needle.” Most children will be upset about this, no matter how much you try to explain you could be saving, improving, or prolonging their life. So sometimes parents lie until the last moment, often because of their own anxiety.

Therapist and mom Gabrielle Applebury understands. In a recent article she details how, in trying to understand why she became so anxious prior to her daughter’s doctor visits. She recalled well visits of her own childhood, in which she anxiously wondered if she were getting a shot. Discomfort was worsened by her mother, who could not, or would not, give a straight answer about whether or not a shot was imminent.

She writes: “The fact that I couldn't prepare for what would take place at the doctor's office somehow made the experience much worse, even if I didn't end up getting a vaccine. With my daughter, I decided to help her ease into this experience with the opportunity to feel more prepared about the situation.”

READ MORE: How do I handle my child's well visits and immunizations?

In her practice, Applebury deals with anxious people, and knows how to help them feel prepared for something that makes them uncomfortable. She helps them feel a sense of control.

“When my daughter was old enough to understand what was happening,” she writes, “I started to speak with her about upcoming doctor appointments and what was going to happen. Although no kid is a fan of getting shots, I could see that the more she understood, the more at ease she was with these appointments.”

First off, Applebury says to never tell your toddler more than two days before the well visit that they’re getting a shot, as that gives more time for anxiety to build up. Once you do tell them, she suggests you role play with your child. A doctor toy kit, with which you can give each other “play vaccines,” is a good start.

When Applebury tells her little one the doctor visit is imminent, she says there will be “a little ouch” but it will be followed by a cool Band Aid and a treat.  She also suggests modeling behavior. Allow your toddler to give you the shot, and take a breath beforehand. And most important, if they express nervousness, validate their feelings.

You can wait until they’re older to go into detail about how much you improved their life by getting them vaccinated.



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