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Easing the Way Through Shots: Tips for Making It Easier on Kids and You!

Published in Pediatrics, For the Health of It, Childhood Vaccines Author: Sarah Cook,MD

With the school year right around the corner, it may be time for sports physicals and well-child visits with your child’s doctor.

During your visit, your doctor will monitor your child's growth rate over time, screen for underlying conditions, like mental health concerns, behavioral issues or learning disabilities, and ensure your child's immunizations are up to date. With many children, the thought of getting shots brings fears and tears, but age-specific vaccinations are an important part of the whole health picture of your child now and into the future.

As a parent, there are several ways you can help your children through these fears and create a more positive experience for both of you.

Talking About Shots

Helping anxious children through shots requires patience, understanding and empathy. It’s important that you prepare your child for what will happen during the appointment. Here are a few ways you can explain shots to your children of different ages:

Toddlers (1-3 years)

Toddlers are generally very curious. The best way for them to learn about shots is with simple language that they can understand, visual aids and pretend role-playing. “It’s just a quick poke and then it’s done.”

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Preschoolers are beginning to have a better understanding of their bodies. Your child is still very young, but it’s important you provide them with simple explanations and address pain concerns. Explain to your child that they will be receiving a vaccine, which is a fluid that goes into their body to ward off harmful germs and keep them healthy. You can describe a vaccine as a poke or pinch in the upper arm or thigh. Reassure them that the pain is temporary and validate their fears beforehand. Often times, telling your child stories where the main character overcomes their fears could reassure them.

School-Age Children (6-12 years)

As your child begins understanding more complex concepts, you can start to share with them how vaccines work using terms they’ll understand such as a software update to prepare their body to respond to viruses. Explain to them that vaccines not only help them stay healthy, but also protects their families, friends and the community. Encourage them to ask questions. Watch this video to help explain vaccines to school-age children.


At this age, your children can engage in sophisticated discussions. Provide them with information and involve them in the decision-making process when it comes to their health.

When talking to your children about vaccinations, steer away from dismissing their fears, rushing the conversation, overwhelming them with too much information and using scare tactics. If you don’t know how to appropriately address their concerns, we are here to help!

Making Shots Less Stressful During Your Appointment

There are many strategies that may help children of all ages have a more positive experience during their appointment. Consider the following before your next appointment:

  • Reduce anxiety by having them bring a favorite toy, book, game, etc.
  • Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques beforehand, so your child is familiar with them. Counting to 10, humming or pretending to smell a flower or candle are all great ideas.
  • Offer reassurance or physical comfort as needed. Sometimes all your child needs is your calm and supportive presence.
  • Reward your child's bravery with small, age-appropriate incentives such as an ice cream treat, movie night, etc. This may be helpful for future appointments.
  • Coping strategies for infants may include swaddling, singing and other relaxing sounds or skin-to-skin contact.

Navigating Through Parental Concerns

As a parent, it is not uncommon that you may experience your own fears when it comes to your child's vaccinations. One of the most effective ways to overcome these fears is to educate yourself about the vaccinations recommended to your child. Reach out to your child’s pediatrician or care team to address any concerns or questions you may have regarding vaccinations. We can give insight into the specific vaccination at question. You may also want to seek out supportive communities. Share your concerns with other parents who have made the decision to vaccinate their children. Sharing experiences with both like-minded individuals and professionals can help ease your mind and deepen your understanding when it comes to boosting your child's immunity through vaccination.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns regarding your child’s vaccinations. We are here for you and your child every step of the way.