Parents play key role in childhood immunizations

| October 14, 2010 | 0 Comments

Julie Kalakau
Tripler Army Medical Center

HONOLULU — The fear and anxiety that builds up in a child’s mind is far more stressful than the actual experience itself, especially when it comes to getting an immunization.

Working together to create a less stressful experience is the key, parents play an important role in creating a calmer visit for the children. 

Parents can begin this process early on. They should remain calm and supportive, beginning with the very first visit. The fact is, children need frequent checkups in their early childhood years. These checkups are part of a well baby, a healthy child and school physicals, and often include immunizations. 

By the time children have reached age 2, they’ve experienced about 20 vaccines. The 4- and 5-year-old checkup requires children to receive another four to six vaccines. 

Parents should be aware that if they have an anxiety or fear of needles, their child will pick up on these feelings, which may have a negative impact on the child’s experience. 

Parents can also prepare their child with simple and truthful explanations. If the child asks, “Am I going to get a shot?,” it is best to be honest. For example, you can reply, “You will be getting a shot today, and I am going to be there with you.” If you are unsure, tell the child that you will ask the doctor. 

Ask children what they think might help them cope: counting, deep breaths or playing a favorite sedentary game such as “I Spy.” Reassure them that their shots will be done as quickly as possible, and then focus on what the next activity of the day will be. 

Always remember that doctors, nurses and medical staff are available to work with parents; however, parents know their child best and parental involvement is key! 

Tips for a less stressful immunization experience:


  • Bring something for comfort or distraction. It’s important that children have something to do while waiting, such as books, hand-held games or small, stuffed animals. 
  • Keep informed by asking the primary care provider questions. Doing so will lessen parental anxiety, and in turn, lessen the child’s. Parents’ resolve in knowing the importance of protecting a child against preventable diseases will help a child be less fearful. The focus should be that immunizations are for protection. 
  • Remain calm. This can be the greatest gift to a child. Calm parents tend to create a calm and matter-of-fact experience, which leads to the child remaining calm.
  • Never use a shot as a threat. This adds fear both now and in the future.  
  • Some children may try to stall. Stalling behaviors really make the situation worse. Work with the nurse to support a child in getting the shot quickly. 


(Editor’s Note: Kalakau is a child-life specialist at TAMC.)


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