It is often a stressful event for all involved whenever doctors order the necessary bloodwork or injections for little ones. No one looks forward to that process. But alas, it must be done. Here are a handful of tips that can be helpful for when that time comes around for your child:
Tell the Truth: “It does feel like a pinch. It won’t hurt for long. I will be with you the whole time.” To tell a young child that it doesn’t hurt when it does hurt a bit will not gain you any trust – even when they are little. You can let them know it will hurt without causing undue fear in preparation. It’s also OK to normalize that you dislike getting shots or bloodwork yourself, but you do it to stay healthy, just like they are.
Butterfly Hug: A lot of times at these appointments, the technician will have the child sit on your lap. When they do this, you can place your hands on each of your child’s legs and gently pat back and forth one leg at a time at a consistent pace. You can also do this on their shoulders as well. The patting back and forth (also called bilateral stimulation) can help lower distress. It won’t erase it, but can help their little body to cope in the moment.
Blow Out Your Candles: Taking a nice deep breath naturally reduces stress and anxiety by engaging the parasympathetic nervous system. To make this fun, you can hold up one finger and tell your child to blow out their birthday candles nice and slow. Do it with them.
Rehearse Beforehand: I am a big fan of telling the story beforehand so kids know what to expect. Even with little kids around 18 months, you can act it out with stuffed animals or another family member before the time comes. You can walk them through all the pieces: walking in, sitting down in the waiting room, getting either a tourniquet and/or wiping with alcohol wipe, the pinch, the staying still, and the band-aid afterward. And don’t forget to practice the butterfly hug and blowing out your birthday candles together throughout the process. End with a hug, kiss, or a high five after its over. You did it! This is an opportunity to remind them they can do hard things!
Model Staying Calm and Positive: Kids learn by what they see; if you can keep yourself calm and positive, your child can feed off of your strength and enjoy an easier time self-regulating. If injections or bloodwork are hard for you, find ways to calm yourself that are helpful (deep breathing, looking away, thinking of something good: a favorite place or activity) and teach them what works for you.
You’ve got this! If you need any more help with staying calm in anxiety-provoking situations, call our office to speak to one of our therapists. We would love to help.