It's been more than two weeks since the green signal was given for Covid vaccinations for children aged 5-11 years old. While this is a step in the right direction and the news comes as a massive relief for parents, it can also be tough for parents to see their children struggle with the fear of needles. In fact, did you know that phobia of needles is one of the most common fears amongst kids and some adults as well?
We've got some helpful strategies to make the experience of a Covid vaccination as smooth as possible. Practicing these skills can help prepare your kids before and on the day of vaccination.
Strategies for Managing Anxiety
Teaching Diaphragmatic Breathing
This type of breathing can prove extremely helpful for kids to calm down in stressful situations. Diaphragmatic breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system and, as a result, has a calming effect on the body. Let's make this more fun for kids and call it "belly breathing." The way to do belly breathing is to breathe in through the belly and have the stomach come out as you inhale. Taking a brief pause at this point is advised, followed by a long exhalation that is 'nice and still' without too much chest movement. It will instantly make your child feel relaxed.
Visualizing a Relaxing Scene
Teaching kids the visualization technique will be effective concerning their fear of needles and be a valuable tool for future situations requiring them to manage stress. You can start by asking them to think of a place where they feel completely relaxed and then ask them to imagine the place with as many details as possible. Practising with your child orally describing the place with its details at night before bedtime is an excellent way to get them used to it. If you want you can also add some cheerful music to make the exercise more relaxing. And when they are describing details of their chosen place, encourage them to pair the scene with words like "relax" or "calm." Additionally, you can also nudge them towards descriptive words like "beach" doing this allows the word and the feeling to be paired through the power of classical conditioning.
Doing a Fun Activity Together
Finding an activity that involves your kid, which is both fun and light, can be helpful. It enables them to manage their anxiety response on the day they are due for their vaccines. You can start by identifying cute, funny or relaxing memes online that make your kids laugh. Compiling a bunch of such material is something that you and your child can do together. You can have a separate folder on your computer or your phone. Alternatively, you can also save it on Youtube, which makes it handy and accessible for when you need them. Spend time watching these funny videos and memes as a fun activity when nothing is stressful. And do remember to have them available the day of the shot.
Make a List of Coping Thoughts that Would Help your Children
Finally, you could develop a list of thoughts to help your child cope and feel more confident and control the situation. For instance, "I can do this" or "I have done other hard things before." There's a blank coping thought list for you to get started.
Dealing with phobias can be difficult, especially in a situation like this. But the good news is that as parents, you are not without a solution. There are more ways you could get your child to manage stress regarding the fear of needles. Exposure therapy has proved to be a successful strategy for phobias. And if you require help, it could be beneficial to reach out to a psychologist to guide you through the process. Good luck!