The MMR and 4-in-1 pre-school booster vaccines are offered to children from the age of three years and four months to boost their protection against; measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, and polio. These take the form of two injections – one in the top of each arm. The day of these injections can be a stressful one for you both, but here are some tips in helping to make it run smoothly.
At this age, your little one is unlikely to have any recollection of previous vaccinations, however they may still experience some fear at the idea of having an injection. You know your own child better than anyone but for most children, preparation is key. Feeling prepared can also help you to remain calm throughout the process, which is reassuring for your little one.
Online videos can also be a very useful tool in preparing your child for what to expect on the day of their vaccinations, such as this one with CBeebies star Dr. Ranj.
Tell the truth
Explaining to your child the importance of vaccinations in simple terms can help them to process the reason why you are heading to the doctors. Being honest and letting your child know what’s going to happen helps to build a relationship of trust, for example “you may feel a scratch on your arm when the nurse gives you the injection, but it will be over quickly and it will help to protect you from nasty illnesses.”
If your little one has a doctor toy set or using their imagination, it may help to role play with a dolly or teddy in advance, demonstrating where they will receive the injections.
Time this conversation and role play for the day before or the morning before an afternoon visit to the doctor’s – too far in advance and your child’s anxiety may build (or he may forget), and too close to the appointment itself and he may feel stressed and rushed into it.
On the day
On the day itself, your little one may want to take a favourite dolly or cuddly toy for comfort and reassurance.
If your child reacts negatively to the idea of a scratch on their arm – as most would – you could focus on how brave he is and offer a treat to share together afterwards, be it a trip to the playground or an ice cream.
When it comes time for the injections, the nurse will likely ask you to sit your little one on your lap facing outwards, holding onto his hands firmly but gently on his lap. It might help to sing a song to your little one or keep talking to distract him from what the nurse is doing. The chances are, it will be over before either of you have even realised! The fact that it’s two injections can complicate matters as your little one may become upset after the first injection, but keep reassuring him and remind him of the treat that awaits afterwards.
A word on the flu nasal spray
In addition to their pre-school injections, from September every year from the age of two, your child will be invited for a nasal spray to protect against flu. This can also cause some anxiety through fear of the unknown and preparing your child in advance can help to alleviate some of these worries. A very handy video to watch together is this one, which explains the process and might even make your child excited at the prospect of becoming a ‘flu hero’!
Jen Dowding, Baby massage and baby yoga instructor, Basking Babies Laindon & Orsett