A recent post over at the CafeMom forums asked, "Do you forewarn your children when they are getting a shot?" The overwhelming response was yes, most parents do tell their kids ahead of time if a pediatrician visit is going to involve a needle. Reasons vary from wanting to prepare the child to not wanting to be dishonest, and I'm more than a little hesitant to confess this but here goes: I have totally lied to my kids about shots.
I know, I know. It's deceiving and awful and I'm eroding their trust and … I know, okay? But let me try and explain.
Here's the thing: I never completely lied in the sense that I promised that they wouldn't get a shot. If I knew they were due for a vaccination or flu shot whatever, what I said is that we're going in for a checkup to make sure they're healthy and that they stay healthy. When the question was inevitably asked if the visit would include a shot, I would say that I wasn't sure.
The reason I did this is because the alternative was so, so, so, so much worse. My oldest son has had a lot of trouble dealing with the anxiety of anticipation, and while he's much better than he used to be (oh my god, the balloon phobia he had as a toddler. Because they can pop, you see, and no one knows when that might happen), knowing that a shot is in his near future takes the freakout that would normally happen as soon as the needle makes an appearance and stretches it into a much longer affair. The entire drive to the doctor's office, the waiting room, etc. The last time I tried to prepare him for a shot -- by describing how fast it would be over, how important the medicine was, how I'd be right there and we'd get Happy Meals afterwards -- he was so worked up by the time the actual shot came it was … well, it was bad. I can only imagine that his high levels of distress made the actual pain of the shot hurt more, because he'd built it up so much in his head.
His hysteria would get his brother wailing, and the whole thing would just spin out of control. So I started lying about it, because in my mind, a last-minute meltdown was much preferable to an hours-long horror movie.
I haven't had to confront this specific issue in a while: last fall they got the mist instead of shots for their flu vaccinations, so we managed to avoid the needle phobia dilemma altogether. Maybe next time I'll be up front about it, now that my son's older. But maybe not. Because even though it's not a truthful approach, I feel like saving a kid a lengthy panic attack isn't such a bad thing.
How do you deal with kids and shots? Do you tell them it's coming ahead of time?
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