Hey Dads, Here’s How to Support Your Kids When They Need Vaccines
Jun 19, 2020

This guest post was written by Dr. Nathan Boonstra, a pediatrician at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa, and the chair of Iowa Immunizes coalition

How Dads Can Support Their Kids During Vaccines

Dr. Nathan Boonstra with one of his children

This Father’s Day will be a new experience for many. In the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic, dads may not be doing some favorite activities or visiting favorite restaurants. But it’s still a good time to reflect. We’re probably already thinking about keeping our family safe, and may find ourselves learning more about disease prevention. And although a COVID-19 vaccine isn’t on the immediate horizon, vaccines continue to be a vital way in which we can protect our families. Immunization rates for many contagious diseases are down nationwide, which is likely to spur new outbreaks of diseases we thought we had under control. 

So how can dads support our kids when they need vaccines? These approaches aren’t unique to fathers by any means, so here are some great ways all caregivers can promote a culture of immunization in their families. 

Be a Role Model

I like to start with this, because helping your child understand vaccines starts well before the day of your child’s shots. Keep up to date with your own vaccines, including Tdap, influenza, and other adult vaccines. Talk about them with your kids. Show off your bandaged deltoid and let them know that you feel good about it – not only are you protecting yourself, you’re protecting them. And it was easy! Sure, talk about the brief owie you got and your soreness, but let them know that it gets better quickly and it’s so important. 

Read About Vaccines

Reading with your child is one of the most important things you can do for their development. If you can use that time to explore and learn about vaccines, even better! Some great children’s books include Judah Maccabee Goes to the Doctor by Ann D. Kofsky, or The Shots Book: A Little Brother’s Superhero Tale by Ethan Posard. For adolescents, check out Vaccination Investigation by Tara Haelle, which isn’t a bad read for yourself, either! And it doesn’t hurt to equip yourself by reading about common vaccine myths.

Be Present and Open About Immunization

Being there for your child’s immunization visits goes a long way, and being able to comfort them after their pokes is priceless. Keep in mind a few good pointers to be the World’s #1 Greatest Vaccine Support Dad.

  • Dads can support their kids while getting vaccinesKeep it positive. Be honest about the fact that shots hurt a little, but get better quickly and help their body fight off some of the world’s worst diseases without getting sick. Please don’t ever promise your child that there won’t be shots at a visit unless the doctor has said there aren’t any. And please please please don’t imply that shots are a punishment for misbehavior at the doctor’s office. Believe it or not, we want your child to be proud of getting their shots and not be afraid next time! 
  • Keep Calm and Immunize On. Children know when parents are anxious, and if you’re acting like shots are scary, your child will too. At the same time, if your child is nervous, it’s okay to talk about that. Reassure them that it’s completely normal to be nervous when you know something is going to hurt, even just a little bit, but you’ve had lots of shots before and know that it’s easy, quick, and feels better soon. 
  • Praise your child. After the vaccines, tell them how incredibly brave they were and how proud you are!  Don’t dwell on it too much, and feel free to distract them with something they enjoy like a toy or book (preferably not screens or food). Be sure to let your child know they did a great job.
Speak Up About Vaccines

All of our families are safer when as many people immunize as possible. Vaccines may not be a common topic when dads get together, but we all influence our social circles and help create a culture of immunization. And there are easy ways to do that without feeling like you are getting on a soapbox!

Have a great Father’s Day, and know that if you are a vaccinating dad, you are in good company! It’s hard to say when, but there will come a Father’s Day in the future without COVID-19 fears, possibly thanks to a new vaccine. Disease prevention never stops, and dads who vaccinate will continue to look out for the well-being of our families and public health. 

Dr. Boonstra can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and at PedsGeekMD.com. Find Iowa Immunizes on Facebook, Twitter, and their web page

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