August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and talking with your children about immunizations (or vaccinations) can be complicated. Make it as simple as you possibly can. Please don’t forget that your child must have the language and cognitive skills to understand what you are saying – you cannot do this with a two-year-old. You may not be able to successfully do this until your child is around five. All kids are different, you most likely know what your child is capable of understanding.
Here are 3 ways parents can talk to their kids about the importance of vaccines
- Show and Tell (the truth!). It is my hope that your child has already received all of their needed immunizations and they are up to date. You can show them your record of when they received these, and they likely started at birth! They will not remember (and that’s good). Share with them that you have done this to keep them healthy, and that’s why they will continue to get their vaccines. You cannot lie to your child and say it will not hurt. It will affect their ability to trust you. Be honest, always.
- Explain a little about getting sick (but don’t be too scary). We cannot prevent all illnesses, however some of the BAD ones we can. Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus are an “all-in-one” vaccine that is received starting at two months of age. If appropriate, based on your child’s developmental level, you can go to aboutwhoopingcough.com/index.html and you can hear a recording of an adult and an infant with the whooping cough. It’s hard to imagine! But don’t do this if your child gets anxious easily or it might frighten them!
- Show love and responsibility. Tell your child/children that you love them and are going to be responsible for providing them good health by receiving these vaccines. Sure, there are rare reactions; nothing is perfect, but I have seen children get sick with illnesses that could have been prevented – that is very sad.
From a developmental standpoint, these conversations could also easily occur for your middle school child, who will need to get vaccines at that age. They can read all they want at that time to better understand the illnesses they are attempting to prevent through vaccines. And your high schoolers will need another round again before entering college.
So – are you up to date on YOUR vaccines?
If you work with soil or dirty metals (and many other examples) you should stay up to date on your Tetanus shot! So many adults do not have a record of their vaccines and often health care providers do not attend to this. Get a record just like your child’s!
You could get your needed immunizations with your child – and you go first!!!
Sherri L. Rose, MSN, PNP, FNP, HPN is a retired pediatric and family nurse practitioner, manager of Sherri L Rose, LLC, and author/songwriter of The Teensy Weensy Virus, Book & Song for Preschoolers.