Today I am sharing some helpful tips for any families with kids who are afraid of shots, blood draws or other times when needles are used. This could be an annual flu shot, early childhood immunizations, covid vaccination, a blood test or other medical procedure.
This post does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your child's doctor when trying anything new. These tips are things that have worked for my kids, and my family. There may also be tips in the comments below. None of them will work for everyone, but just know you are not alone. Solidarity to you!
One of my kids has had many, many blood draws during the preschool years as we hunted down answers about some unknown medical conditions.
We have all been there, either ourselves or our child, facing a needle with anxiety. It is totally understandable to be worried but there are times when it is unavoidable.
Even if we chose not to vaccinate our children, we needed many blood draws to finally find out what was going on with one of my kids.
Things with my kiddo are fine now- and both of my kids just got their first covid shots with nary a teary eye in sight.
My former-screamer, using our favorite tip below, didn't even know the nurse had done the shot until she put on the band-aid!
While we were at the clinic getting our kids their covid vaccinations, a younger child came in and was really crying about getting a shot. It brought back all the memories for me and my kids. In fact one of my kids went up to the family afterwards to share some of our top tips.
I thought, “What a great idea to share the lessons we learned over the years for any other families with the same problem.” So here you go.
If I miss your favorite tip, please do add it in the comments below since we all know- it takes a village!
Tips for Kids Afraid of Shots, Blood Draws and Needles
All kids are different, and what works well for getting shots at one age might not at another age.
Read through these tips and pick the ones that work for your child, at this age. But remember the rest in case you need them later in life. A fear of needles could last a long time, or disappear with one good experience, like it did for us.
The Routine Bribe
Yes we all know the pediatrician gives out stickers or lollipops for good reasons. It helps end on a positive note, reward their bravery and provide a pleasant distraction.
Well, we took the after-shot bribe to the next level by making it part of the routine.
A lesson I learned from the awesome book, Lazy Genius is to “decide once.” Decide once that every time your kiddo gets a shot or a blood draw, you will go get a specific reward. Our doctor's office is across the street from Wendy's so we get a junior Frosty after every blood draw or shot.
Maybe your special treat is a LEGO mini figure, ice cream cone, or to pick an extra library book, paint our nails, go to a new playground.
It doesn't have to cost money. Hopefully it WILL speak your kid's love language.
Plan it together. Following through every time builds trust.
The Magic Shot Hug
We learned this from a nurse in a clinic who surely saw plenty of children crying every day. It works best for toddlers or preschoolers, but my 11 year old jokingly asked to do it recently. Must be good if a tween asks to do it! 😉
Note: this hug style will be better for shots than blood draws. You can ask your tech if they have a recommended hug style for blood draws.
Put your child on your lap so you are tummy to tummy. Your child's legs and arms should wrap around you. The parent's arms go over their arms near the elbow, unless your nurse or tech positions them otherwise. Point their head away from the side where the syringe will go in.
This is no wimpy, ordinary hug. This is a big, tight, MAGIC shot hug, because when the hug is over, so it the shot. You can count down from three and both of you squeeze tight. Tell your child to keep squeezing, keep squeezing until you (the parent) see that it is done.
As someone who has tried to simply “hold the arms” of a screaming child….I think the magic hug is so much easier.
The Inquisitive Scientist
During one blood draw, the tech offered to show us the machines that would spin the blood she was collecting. But obviously there would be nothing to spin unless she drew the blood.
This was genius for my inquisitive little tinkerers. We were all so interested to watch the machine afterwards that the blood draw went shocking fast.
This one only worked once. The next time the worries were back.
But at the time I thought, “Anything to get through one more blood draw.”
Show and Tell
This was something we learned from my kid's guitar teacher. Some days my son would not want to do guitar. Now, guitar and a needle are not the same, I know. But I'll be darned if the same trick doesn't work.
Before you leave home, your child can pick one toy, book or even a favorite song or joke to show at the doctor's office. They can only show it after the shot.
You can make a rule that it has to fit in a baggie, or it has to fit in our back pack, no library books, etc. Whatever rule works for you. Maybe it is a photo of a favorite toy taken on your cell phone.
When you arrive your child can tell the tech, doctor or nurse that they brought a special Shot Show and Tell Item that they get to do after the shot.
I know that nurses and techs don't have all day to listen but someone in the office can usually take a quick glance or watch your kiddo sing a song and say, “Well Done!” as you head out the door.
The BEST Tip We Have Ever Used For Kids Afraid of Needles.
This tip will need to be adapted to your own child's knowledge but I'll give you some starting ideas and you take it from there.
One incredibly sweet nurse leaned in to my kiddo and whispered this as if it was top secret.
“Do you want to know the secret to barely even FEELING a needle??” she asked.
“It's math! Can you believe it?” We called it the Magic Math Game.
She said to have mom ask you math problems while you are having your blood drawn. 5 + 6. 8 X 3. 24-17. As fast as they answer, you give another one.
We have used this tip MANY times and I can tell you it WORKS. Like. Crazy.
Last time one of my kids asked the other one, “24-17!” and the covid-19 vaccine shot was done before we got an answer! Didn't even know the shot had happened. Both kids reported that they felt it less than a flu shot.
If your kid is too young for math, that's okay!
Here are some other options:
- Magic Color Game: Name something that is the color (red, blue, green, etc).
- Magic Letter Game: Name an animal that stars with B! Now name an animal that starts with D!
- Magic Shape Game: Can you find a circle on that wall with your eyes? Or for something like a brick wall or cabinets, can you count how many rectangles you see?
- Magic Favorites Game: What is your favorite (toy, food, color)?
- What color is (your pet, your car, your blankie, your favorite food)?
The point is to keep them thinking. As soon as they answer, ask another question.
My kids do not even worry about shots or blood draws now- and we still use the math trick every time.
If you know any other families who could use these tips, please share this with them!
Did I Miss Your Top Tip? Whether you are a parent, nurse, doctor, tech or a former-screamer yourself. Let's hear YOUR best tip!
Share your tip for kids who are afraid of shots, blood draws and needles in the comments below.
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