Many thanks to our guest blogger, TARYN CHAPMAN, The Vaccine Mom, for this great introduction to how to talk to your kids about vaccines. Taryn is an expert in virology, vaccinology, biochemistry, and immunology…and she’s a mom too. Her recommendations come from science and from her experience with her own kids. What a powerful combination!
For even more great words for talking about shots with your children, be sure to check out Taryn’s Youtube video, “Its never too early to start talking to your kids about vaccines.” (really, this is a great resource!)
This is something I have been pondering for a while, basically because I’m terrified to have terrified children. I have a one-year-old and another on the way, and I’m already planning my talks on health, the body, and vaccines; playing them out in my head as if they were as daunting as the talk.
Although I hate to do this to you, all of this information is as important as the talk should be. That’s because knowledge can help to eliminate fear.
What can you do to start this process of scaring the scariness out of vaccines? I have some ideas.
- First, and foremost, never assume it’s too early to start talking. My daughter is only one, but I have been talking to her about getting vaccines from the very first shot (yep, on day one). I know she doesn’t understand everything that I’m saying, but one day she will, and you never know which day that day will be. And in my experience, the talking calms us both long before we walk into the doctor’s office and long after we leave.
- Once you’ve started talking, put yourself at ease by getting educated. Know your stuff; as I said, education reduces fear, and your lowered stress level will help lower your child’s stress level. The doctor’s visits don’t have to be dreaded days, try to keep them low stress for your children. They most definitely pick up on your cues.
- Soon your children will be old enough to understand basic concepts, so give them those concepts. Be honest. For example, you may want to say: “yes, shots hurt a little bit. But, they won’t hurt for very long after. And people used to get very sick and sometimes die from horrible diseases, but now we have vaccines to keep us from getting all of the horrible diseases. You’re so smart to get your vaccines and stay healthy!”
- Reward your children because getting vaccines is hard. It’s never wrong to praise their bravery and take them to do something they love. Maybe spend some time at the park, followed up by a bowl of ice cream and an: “Aren’t you so happy that you got your vaccines so now you won’t get very sick with the flu? A virus that can make you throw up and an even put you in the hospital. Yuck! You’re so smart to get that vaccine!”
- And as always, keep the conversation going. Answer all of your little ones’ questions, and if you don’t know the answers, be honest. Say: “I don’t know the answer to that question, but I am going to find out the answer for you.