Ask kids about their biggest fear at the doctor’s office and many will tell you “A shot!” Nerves can run high when there’s a needle on the agenda, but we’ve got more than a few ways to keep everyone calm and cool. We asked our awesome KP nurses for their best tricks and here we’ve shared them with you!
- Stay Calm. Kids look to their parents to know when a situation is scary and when it’s safe. One of the best ways to keep little ones cool is by being cool yourself. Even if your child is a ball of nerves, take a “no big deal” attitude. Keep your voice calm and reassuring. Talk about something else. Wary of needles yourself? You may need to pull off an Oscar winning performance, but it’ll be worth it when it’s all over with less fuss.
- Tell the truth. Avoid promising a shot-free doctor visit if there’s any chance there might be an injection. It might make it easier to get your child to the office, but will likely make things harder in the long run. There’s no need to remind a child that there might be shot if he or she doesn’t bring it up, but if you’re asked directly it’s best to be honest. A child who has been told “no shots” and then needs one can be especially upset. Also, if asked, be honest about how a shot feels. Acknowledge that a shot sometimes pinches a bit, but focus on how it’s over quickly. Remind your child how he or she is strong and has recovered quickly from other minor boo boos. Being honest builds trust and resilience in your child and will make doctor visits easier over time.
- Get it over with. Once it’s time for the shot, the nurse will try to get in and out quickly. The longer a child has to worry about what is about to happen the higher emotions can run. Children often try to stall or negotiate just before the injection. A common stall is asking for a restroom break, but this often just gives your child more time to worry. If you think your child may need or ask for the restroom, try to take him before the needle is in the room. Of course, you may need to take a minute to calm a scared child while waiting, but once the shot is about to happen it’s best to just get it done.
- Look away. Kids are visual, so seeing the needle can be scary. Anything that gets your child to turn his head and look away from the injection site will work. He or she can look at you or something cool on the wall. Young kids may enjoy looking you in the eyes as you take turns making faces at each other. Try showing pictures in a book or on your phone or tablet.
- Read a book, talk about what’s for dessert that night, anything that helps your child focus on something else. Physical distraction can also work well with some children. Massage feet or hands. As long as it doesn’t tickle and cause wiggles, try running something soft like a cotton swab along your child’s arm or leg. Or use your finger to “paint” a picture on the palm of their non-shot hand. Let them hold and squeeze something squooshy or nubbly. The dollar store is full of silly puddy, textured squish balls and other things that will work wonders.
- Focus on the reward. Remind your child before and during the procedure that there are treats once it’s all over! At KP all kids who get a needle stick get a popsicle and trip to the treasure chest. Talk about what might be in the chest and how cool it will be to pick it out. The treasure chest is only for kids who’ve gotten shots, so it’s a special reward!
Shots may never be completely anxiety free, but with these nurse tested and proven tips, we hope to at least make it as easy as possible at your next visit!