How to Help Children Cope With Shots

Three Parts:Preparing for ShotsCreating a Calming EnvironmentComforting the Child

Vaccinations are not much fun for kids. In fact, getting vaccination shots are the terror of many small children. However, getting vaccinations is important both for public health and for your child’s well-being. In addition, getting shots or having blood drawn is part of life. Many children, though, don’t understand and will protest or cry when they know they’re about to get shots. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of things adults can do to help children cope with getting shots. In the end, all you have to do is spend a little time and energy to make sure the experience is not traumatic for the child.

Part 1
Preparing for Shots

  1. Image titled Help Children Cope With Shots Step 2
    Initiate an on-going discussion about shots. One good way to help children cope with shots is to talk to them, over a long period of time, about shots and the reason for them. While many people believe that children are irrational, this is not always the case. By demystifying shots, you’ll allow your child to cope with them in a very healthy way.
    • Explain the reason for shots. Say something like "Shots will help keep you safe." You can also say something like "Shots will help keep you from getting really sick."
    • Tell your child everyone has to get shots.
    • Allow your child to watch you get shots.
    • Detail the experience of getting shots.[1] Let your child know that will hurt a little, but then it will be over.
  2. 2
    Have a practice run. Children can benefit immensely from having practice shots. Using practice shots will allow the child to go through much of the experience associated with shots without experiencing any pain.
    • Show the child an empty, needleless, syringe. Allow them to touch it.
    • Use an alcohol swab on their arm.
    • Show them what the doctor would do if this were the real deal.
    • Give the child some sort of reward or positive verbal affirmation.[2]
  3. Image titled Help Children Cope With Shots Step 1
    Choose the right time to let your child know about the shots. Make sure you pick the right time to let your child know about the shots. Picking the right moment will make sure that getting shots is a lot less of a traumatic process than if you picked the wrong moment.
    • Let the child know you’re visiting the doctor in advance.
    • Tell the child that they’ll be getting shots either in the car or in the waiting room.
    • Talk about the shots in a very nonchalant way, as if they are not a big deal.
    • Letting your child know about the shots well in advance will only multiply their anxiety. This is because you’ll give them more time to think about and dwell on the shots they’ll be getting.
    • Don’t try to trick the child or hide the fact that they’re going to get some shots. Simply withhold the information until appropriate.[3]
  4. 4
    Watch a television show or read a book about doctor visits to the child. One great way to prepare a child to deal with shots is to watch certain TV shows or read certain books with them. Some TV shows and books designed for young children tackle the topic of shots in a way that helps prepare them for this life milestone. Consider:
    • Watching Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood or Sesame Street. These programs deal with a wide variety of milestones in the life of young children, including shots.
    • Reading Berenstain Bears. This book series deals with a number of children-related issues, including shots.
    • Other books specifically designed for helping children cope with medical treatment. Ask your local librarian for suggestions.[4]

Part 2
Creating a Calming Environment

  1. 1
    Choose a doctor who has a calming presence. Your choice of a doctor or pediatrician is extremely important when it comes to dealing with a child and shots. Choosing a doctor who is calm, caring, and warm can help reduce the child's anxiety.
    • Ask friends and other parents about the doctor they use.
    • Read reviews online about the doctor’s bedside manner.
    • Let the doctor know if your child has a severe fear of needles. This will give the doctor an extra chance to put the child at ease.[5]
  2. Image titled Help Children Cope With Shots Step 2
    Pick a time of day in which the child is relaxed or happy. Choosing the right time to take your child to get their shots is also extremely important. If you pick a time full of tumult, you’ll undoubtedly increase your child’s anxiety. Instead, pick a time during which your child is happy or relaxed.
    • While it may be convenient, taking your child to the doctor immediately after school might heighten your child’s anxiety. This is especially true if your child knows about it early in the day.
    • Think about taking your child to get shots before something fun, like a birthday party or a visit to the movies. This way, your child may focus on the fun times to come.
  3. 3
    Play soothing music on the way to the doctor’s office. Another great way to help a child cope with shots is to play soothing music when you’re on the way to the doctor’s office. Soothing music will help relax the child.
    • Put on some of your child’s favorite music. Singalong music might work especially well, since it will engage your child and keep their mind off of the shots.
    • Avoid turning the volume up too high. Unless your child is actively engaged in the music, it should be relatively low.[6]

Part 3
Comforting the Child

  1. Image titled Help Children Cope With Shots Step 4
    Distract the child. A great way to help a child cope with shots is to distract them during the process. Distraction is important, as you’ll be able to draw your child’s attention to something more pleasant.
    • Be humorous and distract your child. Tell funny jokes before you go in for the shots.
    • Read a book during the shots to keep your child distracted and looking away. Recall happy occasions with your child.
    • Find something the child can do during shots, such as blowing bubbles, a pinwheel, or holding a favorite soft toy.
    • Some hospitals and doctors will pretend to give shots to a stuffed animal and then let children bandage their toy up afterward. This is not only fun for the child but also gives them a sense of control over the situation. It also distracts them as they comfort their toy rather than focusing on their own pain.[7]
  2. 2
    Offer a reward for cooperation. While you don’t want to bribe or pay off the child, a promise of a reward for good behavior might help convince the child to cooperate. It might also change their spirits as they might see the shot as something to get through before receiving a reward.
    • Promise a visit to a favorite café, park or toy shop after the shots.
    • Give the child a small toy or stuffed animal after they get shots.
    • Some doctors will give children a piece of candy, like a lollipop, immediately after the shot.[8]
  3. 3
    Provide physical comfort before, during or after the shots. If your child is still beside themselves after other inducements, you should definitely provide physical comfort throughout the process. Physical comfort will make the child feel as if shots aren’t a punishment and that they’re getting shots because you want the best for them.
    • Let them sit in your lap, if they want.
    • Hold their hand.
    • Pat them on the back.
    • Hug them afterward.[9]
  4. Image titled Help Children Cope With Shots Step 3
    Avoid coddling the child. While providing physical comfort is important, you should also avoid coddling your child. Ultimately, having shots are an important part of growing up, and your child will have to go through many things in life they don’t like or they don’t enjoy.
    • Don’t ever cancel an appointment because your child doesn’t want their shots.
    • Don’t give into any demands associated with the shots. If you want to offer something, that’s okay.
    • Don’t console your child too much. Your child will pick up on your sympathy and react to it.[10]
  5. Image titled Help Children Cope With Shots Step 5
    Provide positive feedback after the shots. After your child has been given their shots, you should offer positive feedback. By offering positive feedback, you’ll make your child feel better about getting shots in the future.
    • Tell your child how brave they are after the shots.
    • Let your child know that you were happy with how they acted.
    • Appeal to their sense of pride at having dealt so well with the situation and coped with the pain.


  • Be aware of signs of real pain beyond the initial hurting. If your child complains of itchiness, prolonged and severe pain, get immediate attention. Itchiness can be a sign of an allergic reaction and prolonged pain is also wrong. Do not dismiss these signs as mere childish malingering to seek attention; they are serious issues to be addressed as quickly as possible.

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Fears and Phobias