Over the last year the unpredictability of the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on adults and children alike, however, children, in their young and vulnerable stage in life, rely on consistency and predictability to allow them to easily navigate through their youth. The fear of losing loved ones, not seeing school friends or attending school, and of the virus itself affects the mental state of children and hinders on their feelings of security. Bringing a new vaccine into the mix only increases their fears and apprehension as it adds yet another unknown variable in their currently very unknown lifestyle.
The first step to helping ease your child’s fears around COVID and the vaccine is to try and keep consistency as much as possible, structure is one of the most important things for a child so maintaining or helping them readjust to new structure aids in increasing their comfort and safety levels. If it’s not possible to keep any type of schedule, communicating with your child about the changes about to happen to give them time to begin adjusting. Educating your children through age-appropriate books and discussions based on facts about COVID and the vaccine will help them gain understanding as well.
Psychotherapist and social worker Margaret Cochran states that even having a simple nightly gratitude ritual, where the attending family list things they are grateful for, is an easy way to help increase positive mental process, build mental resiliency, improve mood and decrease stress. It is likely some kids may complain about doing such a ritual, but the benefits it will have when their minds develop around age 25 will make it worth it.
When it is time for your child’s vaccine appointment, there are a few things you can do to help reduce their anxiety:
- Talk to your child and let them know what they can expect to feel when they get vaccinated. Be transparent, let them know it may be painful or uncomfortable but that it only lasts moments.
- Go before them, if possible, this allows them to be reassured that if their parent is doing it, it will be okay for them too. If needles are a fear of yours, try your best to maintain your own anxiety. If this is not possible, have a family member that is not afraid take them instead.
- Plan a reward, this eases anxiety and gives them something to look forward to after instead of dwelling on any fears they may have.
- Give your children a sense of independence surrounding the vaccine by allowing them to make simple decisions. Ask them if they want more information about the vaccine, what music do they want to listen to on the way, or what reward will they get after.
- During their appointment try to keep them distracted with activities and items that they enjoy such as toys, games, or songs and practice breathing exercises with them. Celebrate their bravery after.
Following these simple steps can help you child through the pandemic and their vaccinated experience with ease.