Mar 3, 2016

Should I talk to my child about injections

Category: Children

Should we tell my son about going to the doctor For his injections?  My husband thinks we should wait until we are in the office to tell our son so he won't worry about it before. I think we should give him a little heads up so he's not wondering every time we are going to an unknown place if the end result will be frightening.



What a good question! I can understand why your husband would want to wait until the last possible moment to tell your child what is about to happen as it can be hard to witness your child feeling anxious and worried about something like going to the doctor’s for an injection and therefore tempting to spare them as much as possible. This can be especially true if the parent is fearful of injections themselves. However, in my view, it there are some important reasons why it is better to give children advance warning of what is to come.

Firstly, if you tell your child ahead of time what is going to happen, you give them the chance to prepare and to understand what is going to occur which leaves them feeling much more in control than if something is sprung on them without warning, which can actually leave the child feeling quite traumatised and much more fearful in future situations.

By talking about it beforehand, you can explain the procedure and what they can expect to happen. You can tell them the injection might hurt a little but it won’t last for long and you can plan with them different ways to help to manage their anxiety.  For example, you can reassure them that you will be with them the whole time and that they will be sitting on your lap (if they want that), you can suggest taking along a beloved toy and letting them choose a favourite story to read while it’s happening. You can initiate a game of “doctors” beforehand and take it in turns being the either the patient or the doctor who is giving the injection so that the child can use play to explore and master their fears. You can also suggest doing something they really enjoy afterwards so they have something to look forward to once it’s finished.

As much as we might wish to protect our children, the reality is that all children need to gradually learn how to cope with and master uncomfortable feelings such as anxiety, which are very much a part of life. A situation like this one provides such an opportunity and by telling the child beforehand what is going to happen, you give them a chance to work through their feelings. At the same time you can help to contain the anxiety and make it bearable rather than it feeling overwhelming. The child gets to find out for themselves that they are able to manage an anxiety provoking situation without it being too much for them whilst having the support of an empathic and containing parent. This is such an important resource for the child to find within themselves and it can be slowly built on as they grow older.

The other reason I think it is important to tell your child what is going to happen is that they can feel reassured that they can trust you to prepare them for such situations. A child who has an unpleasant experience of an injection with no warning of what is to come is likely to feel very anxious about future trips to the doctors and may not be easily reassured that there is nothing to worry about, even if this is true. A child who was well prepared may still have found the injection an unpleasant experience but hopefully not a traumatic one and will have confidence that they can rely on you to prepare them to face other difficult situations in the future.

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