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Time to talk to kids about COVID-19 vaccine, experts say

Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 3:49 PM EDT
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(CNN) - Millions of younger children may soon be able to get vaccinated from COVID-19, but getting a shot probably doesn’t top your child’s list of fun things to do.

While the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still must give the full green light, experts say it’s important to talk to your kids about what to expect.

It’s the COVID-19 protection many parents have been waiting for. With the first hurdle cleared on the path toward authorizing COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, it’s time to talk about the vaccine with your children before they get the shot.

“A lot of times they get really revved up and heightened about the unknown of how bad it could be,” Jody Baumstein said.

Baumstein, a therapist with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Strong4Life, says for most kids, the conversation should come a few days before the vaccination so there’s not a long period of time to worry about it.

“As much as possible, try to connect it to what they already know which is that they’ve had vaccines before and they’ve gotten through it,” she said.

Baumstein said parents should be careful not to pass their own anxiety to their child. They should prepare them, but stay away from words like shot or poke, which can cause fear in some.

“You can talk to them about how they might feel some pressure when the vaccine goes into their arm, helping to describe it, but keeping it as simple and straightforward as possible,” Baumstein said.

Finally, Baumstein suggested parents talk to their children about vaccination anxiety. First, help them to know the cues and what happens when they feel anxious.

Then, practice ways to cope ahead of time. That could be holding onto a favorite stuffed animal for comfort, listening to music, practicing mindfulness or deep breathing.

Parents should also make sure their kids know why they’re getting vaccinated.

“Reminding them that this is a way that we can keep themselves and we can keep other people safe,” Baumstein said.

Baumstein said it’s important for parents to listen to what their children are thinking and feeling about the COVID-19 vaccine and validate those feelings, letting them know that any feelings of being confused or scared is OK and normal.

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