How to Teach Your Kids About the Importance of Vaccinations
Dec 18, 2019
Guest Post by Jenny Silverstone from Mom Loves Best
Getting children to understand the importance of vaccinations can be a hard sell. Logically, they can get it to an extent, but their fear of needles can still make them fight you tooth and nail when it’s time for their vaccinations.
How can you convince them that vaccinations are worth the temporary pain they’ll feel? It won’t be easy because children often think more about what’s happening to them at the moment than what could happen to them in the future. But here are some ideas to get you started.
Enlist the Help of Their Favorite Characters
As a public service to help children understand the importance of vaccinations, some of their favorite characters have addressed the benefits of getting shots. That might be enough to sway your child’s opinions about vaccinations being a good thing rather than something to be feared.
If your child is a Sesame Street fan, chances are your child loves Elmo. Hearing Elmo or another one of their favorite characters talk about how vaccinations save lives might be enough to convince them too.
Children tend to idolize the characters they love, and believe every word they say. They carry so much influence with them that you can use that influence to instill some healthy habits in your children.
Explain, But Keep It Simple
When you’re dealing with toddlers, they won’t care about or understand any statistics you offer them about diseases. They are focused completely on the pain. Your best bet to get them to stop fighting you when it comes to getting vaccinations is to remind them of how miserable they feel when they are sick.
Let them know that although vaccinations hurt for a few seconds, they can prevent your child from getting much sicker in the future and possibly even needing a stay at the hospital to treat that illness.
For older children who still grumble when it’s vaccination time or question the need to get them, it’s okay to give them a quick history lesson. Let them see the devastating consequences of diseases that vaccinations have nearly eradicated, like polio. Make sure they understand the life-changing and, possibly fatal, implications of skipping vaccinations.
While it’s better to leave the risk of dying out of your explanation to young children because you don’t want to scare them, older children are mature enough to handle that. Having all the information helps them understand why vaccinations are vital.
Make Them Understand They Are Protecting Others
Sometimes children care more about protecting others than they do about protecting themselves. They might be more likely to bravely sit through a shot if they know it’s doing good for other people.
If your child is old enough, you can give them a brief explanation of herd immunity. By getting a shot, they might be protecting other children who can’t get vaccinations because of health conditions, such as a weakened immune system. They’ll also be protecting children whose parents think that vaccinations are unnecessary or those who skip them for religious reasons.
You can show them this animated video about how vaccines work to protect them and their family.
If your child is a kindhearted kid who is always trying to take care of others, this might be your best bet for helping them to understand why vaccinations are crucial. They may feel proud of themselves for helping others by handling three seconds of pain when they get that shot. Make sure to praise your children for being so brave and for helping the greater good by doing their part to control or eradicate diseases. You can encourage your child to bring their favorite stuffed animal along for the day and even give them a bandage to put on the toy’s arm just like them!
Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
One of the best teaching tools a parent has is to practice what they preach. If you want to send a message to your children that vaccinations are important, you should let them see you getting one yourself.
Actions speak louder than words. Schedule your own flu shot (if you haven’t gotten it yet) or other adult vaccination for yourself and make sure you bring your child to the appointment.
Don’t flinch or act scared to be getting the shot. Keep talking to your child and explaining to them each step as the healthcare professional does it. Explaining the steps, such as why the nurse wipes your skin with an alcohol pad, can take some of the mystery and fear out of the process.
Be Patient With Them
As your kids learn about the benefits of vaccinations and come to their own conclusions about them, support them by giving them all the age-appropriate learning materials they need about this subject.
And don’t forget to give them some extra love in the minutes and even days following each round of vaccinations. They might feel a little cranky from the sore arm and may have a mild fever (because the vaccines are helping their bodies create immunity), but that’s much better than the alternative of not having protection from serious and potentially deadly diseases.
About the Author
Jenny Silverstone is a professional writer, editor, and most importantly, the loving mother of two beautiful kids. Jenny’s goal at Mom Loves Best is to help the other moms like her who are struggling and trying to do their best but feel totally overwhelmed.
Learn more about vaccines for babies and young children, preteens/teens, and adults on Vaccinate Your Family’s website.
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