Kids all over Australia are about to be jabbed! As adults with mature brains we know why this must be, but kids are really taking our word for it. We have noticed increased anxiety amongst our kids since the pandemic started, and many are very fearful of any vaccination, or of anything related to Covid in general.
Normally with vaccinations we say things like ‘it’ll be a quick sting and then it’ll be fine’ when preparing kids for vaccinations, but I feel like that might be a bit of a porky pie this time around. My arm ached for 24 hrs after both of my Covid vaccinations! So how can we set our kids up for successful, calm vaccinations with awareness of what they are doing for their community?
1. Be simple, clear and truthful
Why? This needle will help you stay healthier, not get Covid badly or pass it to other people
Who and where? You and I will go together to see Joe at the Chemist/ Dr Sarah/ Health centre
What? It will be a short, sharp sting/nip/mozzie bite
After? Your arm might feel sore for a day, we will have extra chill time if we need it (see 4 below)
Don’t lie to, surprise or catch worried kids off-guard. They need to trust you and their healthcare providers.
2. Prepare well
Book an appointment with your GP or Pharmacist if your child is easily worried. Don’t make them stand in line which will build up their stress.
Use a numbing cream to help numb the skin (apply 1 hour before). It is available at pharmacies over the counter (https://www.emla.com.au/use-for-kids/) – talk with your pharmacist or GP. Just knowing that they have something to help with the sting – and something practical they can do to prepare – will help their brain feel in charge rather than out of control.
Plan a positive activity to look forward to afterwards – play a game, visit a friend or watch a TV show at home together.
3. Sensory Strategies
At the moment of the vaccine, distracting your child’s mind and body from the thought of the needle and its sting is often best achieved with sensory strategies:
- Sit very close to them or have them sit on your lap with your arm/s firmly but gently around their waist for calm deep pressure
- Chew chewing gum or a chewy mint – the deep pressure of chewing is relaxing and the minty freshness a lovely strong scent
- Have a fidget toy in their non-vaccination hand to squeeze gently (they need to be able to sit very still)
4. After the Vaccination
Talk about how well your child participated in looking after their body to stay healthy and help their community with Covid.
Prepare a vaccination kit – gentle pain relief, a soft cold press (I like the gel ice packs from lunchboxes), a few easy snacks. I know a bandage always helped my kids with a sore limb to remember not to do too much with the affected side.
Your child may bounce through without any aftereffects, or they might have a sore arm, or flu-like symptoms. If they are irritable or upset, acknowledge their body is giving the right response – getting ready to fight Covid, and we can help it by:
- Having pain killers
- Drinking water
- Resting (I say perfect time for movies!)
- Eating easy, comforting food
Thank you for helping your community to knock Covid on the head!
All the best!
Becky Khan, Occupational Therapist and mother of 3 teens