I make my kids cry every fall. I take them to get their flu shots.
I don’t want them to cry- that just happens to be an unfortunate side effect. What I do want is to have one less thing to worry about each winter. I don’t want to worry about my children getting sick with influenza. So every fall I make sure all four of them are immunized.
We’ve had some interesting experiences over the years. When my son was two he kicked a male nurse as he injected his leg. The nurse hadn’t been expecting such a strong kick from a little boy and hadn’t fully pinned his legs down. I don’t think that nurse will ever make that mistake again. Another year my son’s arm swelled up and I had to take him back to the doctor to get it looked at. Ice packs and ibuprofen took care of the swelling.
The best year was when the Flumist Nasal Spray was covered by our insurance and all my kids were old enough to have it. I was able to line the four of them up on the exam table and they calmly received the vaccine up their noses. I thought we were set for life with that nasal spray. But the next year it was shown to be ineffective and our insurance stopped covering it. We had to go back to the dreaded injections.
The worst year was last year when my husband and I took all four kids to a walk-in shot clinic. We had to wait for about 30 minutes in a crowded waiting room and most of our kids were nearly hysterical by the time we went back to get the shots. Things didn’t improve in the exam room. The kids just built off each other’s anxiety. One of my girls was screaming. I’m actually really glad that COVID has canceled walk-in clinics for the foreseeable future.
I’ve learned a few tricks for how to help my kids handle the shot. They have an option to bring a stuffed animal to squeeze. I also give the kids a treat after the shot. Sometimes we get soft-serve ice cream cones at a fast-food restaurant as soon as we leave the clinic. Other times my kids choose giant lollipops from the dollar store.
I’ve learned its best to divide my four children into groups of two. I’ll take the twins in for shots one day and the younger two another day. Or sometimes my husband and I go together and we each take two into a room.
Last year I gave the kids about a month’s advance notice that they were getting a shot on a certain day. I thought this would help them prepare. Instead, it just gave them a month to worry. This year I didn’t tell them until the day of – when we were in the doctor’s office parking lot. This cut down immensely on the worrying.
Three years ago I made the mistake of not getting the flu shot myself. In other years I’d been able to get it along with my kids, but we’d moved and that wasn’t an option at their new doctor’s office. I was busy and so I didn’t figure out where I could get a shot. That’s the year I ended up with the flu. At least I think it was the flu, and if it wasn’t the flu then I never want to have the real thing. I was miserable and had to miss a couple of days of work. After that, I vowed I’d always get a flu shot.
Even after all this time, my kids still cry when it’s time for the actual shot. I’m sure they are thinking I’m the meanest mom in the whole world. Every year I tell them, “I’d rather have you cry for 5 minutes than have you sick for a few days.”
And I have seen some progress over the years. My son isn’t afraid of needles so he only cries when he has to be held down. This year my youngest daughter impressed me by her reaction when I told her we were at the doctor’s to get a shot. She said to herself, “It’s okay, I can do this.” She still cried when it was time, but she was calm up until then.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that taking kids to get shots isn’t easy, but it is doable. The feeling of having one less thing to worry about is always worth it.