How to talk to your children about getting the Covid-19 vaccine

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How to talk to your children about getting the Covid-19 vaccine

Have an open, honest, but age-appropriate conversation (Picture: Getty Images)

the latest tech news, global tech news daily, tech news today, startups, usa tech, asia tech, china tech, eu tech, global tech, in-depth electronics reviews, 24h tech news, 24h tech news, top mobile apps, tech news daily, gaming hardware, big tech news, useful technology tips, expert interviews, reporting on the business of technology, venture capital funding, programing language

Nothing has made my heart sink more over the last year than seeing grown adults attempting to terrify children over getting the Covid-19 vaccine; children they have no connection with and who they are likely filling with misinformation.

Outside a middle school in the north east of England, anti-vax protesters were telling children, in an intense fashion, that their parents were going to die because they had had the vaccine.

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I could see and feel the terror coming from the children and I have no doubt that with conspiracy theories continuing to circulate around the vaccine, such events will continue to happen over the country now that the jabs have opened up to children aged five to 11 years of age.

In the same town, I also came across the chilling sight of kids holding placards with anti vax propaganda at a protest on the town’s main bridge. This was to encourage passing cars to toot their horns in support, I assumed, but they got very little response.

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It’s a worrying time with an increase of infections seeing around one in 16 people in the UK come down with the disease.

But how do we broach the topic of getting a vaccine with young children? They may well have fears around it, from picking up from adult vibes and what’s on the TV and computer through to understandable panic around being jabbed with a needle.

This is where parents, guardians and trusted adults come in. We play a vital part in ensuring children’s anxiety around the vaccine is as low as possible and there are many ways we can support them.

Firstly, we need to make sure our own information is up to date. The best place to start with this is through NHS guidance. The landscape is changing all the time so in order to be truthful with your child, which is imperative, you need to be confident and equipped with the facts.

Guessing can really muddy the waters and while we need to be age appropriate in our approach to the discussion, we have to level with the child.

We need to create an open discussion with information that is easy to digest for children on the importance of getting the vaccine and protecting themselves and others.

How to talk to your children about getting the Covid-19 vaccine

Make sure you’re soothing any anxiety (Picture: Getty Images)

With any discussion with children and young people they should be the ones leading it, with you giving them the information and discussing what they can expect and why it’s important in language they understand.

I appreciate the Covid 19 vaccine discussion is still a sensitive one for adults and our own feelings remain raw and ones of worry. We have to try to keep that away from children as much as possible as they take their cues from us.

Ways you can put the explanations vary based on age but there are some examples I would suggest such as:

  • ‘A vaccine is like a shield that protects your body’
  • ‘Vaccines teach your body to fight nasty illnesses and it knows what to do’
  • ‘Lots of children all across the world get vaccines to stop them getting poorly.’
  • ‘The jab is a small pinch on your arm and I will be with you all the time, it will be over before you know it.’

It’s also important to gauge what children know about the vaccine and what they have heard. They will have had influences all around them, from friends, teachers, other parents during playdates and, in extreme cases, potentially displays like I saw outside the school local to me.

Ask them what they know, what they think and what they are worried about and it’s important to be very patient and let them talk at their own speed.

Address their fears directly and take them seriously; don’t dismiss them and don’t lie. Talk to them about it, use your own knowledge from up to date guidance and use reassurance as much as you can without being dishonest.

Being comforting, using the right tone of voice and letting children know that no question is silly are all important tools in your parenting arsenal.

How to talk to your children about getting the Covid-19 vaccine

On the day, bring out some grounding techniques (Picture: Getty Images)

At the same time, don’t over share. Death statistics, hospitalisations, emergencies and severe symptoms are not necessary at this stage and will just serve to cause anxiety and overthinking.

And of course, there’s nothing wrong with promising a little treat post vaccination. For the same reasons that doctors give lollipops and stickers, you will be doing your child a great service by acknowledging that they have been very brave.

But what about on the day of the vaccine? You are the person your child trusts the most so you need to be the one by their side, giving the feeling that this is no big deal.

Before the vaccine, make sure to re-explain how they work; again in simple terms. Provide distractions with little games and also look out for signs of anxiety such as quietness, looking for exits and biting nails. This will offer you a cue on what level of comfort you need to offer.

One technique I have used when with a child for any inoculation is the five senses grounding technique – get the child to identify something they can see, touch, smell, taste and hear if the environment allows.

During the vaccine itself, be calming, and keep your child distracted. Keep them focused on you without making it seem like they should be worried.

Take attention away from the needle if you can, but beforehand be honest that they will feel a little pinch, so that it doesn’t come as a big surprise and shock them when they feel it. Often it is the surprise rather than any pain itself which will cause the worse reaction.

Afterwards, it’s time to reiterate how important it is what your child has done. They have protected themselves and others from getting seriously ill and they should be proud. They have been really brave and grown up. And of course, get them that treat or make their favourite dinner or have a night with their favourite film.

They will have forgotten all about it within an hour if you maintain normality through play, chatter and routine.

It’s daunting for parents as the dread of a child’s reaction to inoculations is a valid one. It’s not easy seeing your child worried or upset but, in the same way you reassure them how important it is, reassure yourselves too.

You need to be just as proud of yourself for doing the best job to keep your child both comforted and also safe and healthy.

It’s a team effort between you and child – and it’s one worth seeing through.

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