My kids got their first round of the COVID vaccine Friday night, November 5. They are 7 and 9 years old. I learned some things that I hope will be helpful if your children will be getting the vaccine also.
Expect it to take longer than you expect. I squeezed ours in between school and basketball Friday night and hadn’t anticipated the extra time needed for my kids and others to work through the process. Consider taking snacks and something for your kids to do. Even if you have an appointment, there may be more waiting due to a slower, gentler process needed for younger ages. This added time waiting may add anxiety as getting a shot isn’t something that feels good. My personal choice would have involved headphones with an audio book or video game because there were some kids crying and that would have allowed my kids to stay relaxed and focused on the end goal.
Prepare them that it’s ok to feel nervous (take a stuffed animal friend). My kids have wanted to be vaccinated for many months and wanted the first available vaccine appointments. However, just like when they get the flu shot, there are moments of trepidation upon arrival. One of my kids is afraid of needles. They were so excited to be vaccinated that I didn’t have this prep conversation until we arrived and I saw their nerves. I reminded mine that it’s perfectly ok to be nervous or even cry (there were other kids crying). In fact the other crying children made my kids nervous so I wish I would have known to talk this through before we arrived. Here is what I told mine. There might be kids feeling nervous and you might feel that too and that is ok. We talked about why they wanted to be vaccinated and if they changed their minds, that was ok too and we could make another appointment. Ultimately I hoped that would not be needed because I wanted this to be their decision. I also told them they could show the other kids how to be brave and that really made a difference.
What happened next? Just like with the flu shot, the actual shot didn’t hurt. They quickly realized the anticipation was the hardest part for them. They didn’t flinch or cry during the shot and stood up proudly after receiving the vaccine, feeling great. We played basketball that evening after the vaccine (one son had practice and the other and I shot around during the practice) and carried on as normal that evening. Both boys awoke happy and feeling great. They knew my arm was quite sore the next day after my first dose so they awoke anticipating that and were surprised to be “feeling amazing”. We played soccer, basketball and they jumped on the trampoline for hours the day after the vacvine and did not spike a fever or report any ill feelings or discomfort. They asked to send a photo to our family because they were proud knowing the action they took may help others and wanted to share that. I asked for their permission to share our experience with you here on the blog and they also proudly said they hoped that would inspire others or help others.
And finally, let’s talk bribery. As a parent, I’ve certainly bribed my children from time to time. For the COVID vaccine, I chose not to. I didn’t want their decision to be about toys. I wanted it to be because they believed it was right for them. I did hear several parents who bribed their children with a toy and I could see it helped their kids power through the worry of the needle. And I’ve done that with with flu vaccines in previous years. However, for me, this felt different. And just like each parenting decision we make, we have to go with our hearts and what we feel is right for our own children and our family.
Please feel free to share our experience if it would help another parent. This has been a long and at times hard journey. But we are the lucky ones with our health and with access to the vaccine quickly and easily. I couldn’t help but think of children and families around the world who don’t get this choice or who will wait months or longer. I’m proud of my kids and the very grownup conversations, emotions and even judgements they have had to feel due to this pandemic. And while we will continue to be diligent mask wearers and careful, I have the biggest feeling of hope yet. This took me back to a conversation I had with the kids when I got my first dose of the vaccine at the beginning of this year. We talked about our hopes after the vaccine and after the pandemic and these were their hopes. To be able to share supplies with their friends at school. To not wear masks so they can joke with their friends and see their laughter. To travel to Canada to play with their cousins. To hug their grandparents without worry.
Here’s to hope.