There comes a time in a young child’s life when they are suddenly old enough to realise what’s going on around them.
For parents, this is a sad and difficult day. You can no longer take your children to parties in that cute Ewok outfit you found on eBay. They are old enough to assess fashion.
You can no longer encrypt messages to your husband by spelling them. Your children are old enough to phonetically sound out “s-e-x-l-a-t-e-r?” even if they don’t always know what it means. You are way too tired to spell that message backwards and your husband unfortunately doesn’t speak Pig Latin (emember-ray at-thay?)
And worst of all, you can no longer take your children for their scheduled vaccinations without a Tactical Response Plan (TRP), necessary to distract kids during vaccinations. While they might not be old enough to realise that you’re doing it for their own good, they are old enough, even at two-years-old, to look at a needle and know that they are about to be on the receiving end of something sharp, pointy and not very comfortable.
I remember the moment my daughter became aware that an innocuous outing to the GP was in fact an ominous outing for an inoculation (try saying that in Pig Latin).
I am a seasoned watcher of CSI, Criminal Minds and Law & Order SVU, so I pride myself on a relative lack of squeamishness.
But there is something unnerving about the moment when tempered; sterilised steel enters the soft, pudgy thigh of my child. I flinch.
On this particular(ly), ill-fated vaccination day, I also expected my small daughter to flinch, whimper and be distracted by the usual, fast-paced-yet-soothing rendition of Incy Wincy Spider.
I was wrong. Her pain swiftly turned into fear and outrage as the GP prepared a second injection for her other thigh. She issued a blood curdling cry and ran out of the surgery, into the waiting room, screaming “Help me, help me, they’re hurting me!” It was downhill fast from there.
Subsequent vaccinations of my daughter and other three children have involved the following TRP. These simple steps are guaranteed to distract kids during vaccinations:
1. Deception – a child psychologist once advised me that when dealing with children’s anxieties, lying to them is not a recommended strategy. The psychologist suggested reasoning.
Hmm. I just can’t see myself saying to my daughter, “Darling, there are children all over the world who die from preventable diseases – I don’t want you to be one of them. Fancy an injection?”
Nope, it’s not gonna fly. I flat out lie as the first part of the plan. My daughter is told that I need a check up and she is merely accompanying me to the doctor. I pop in, meet the GP, who is forewarned and forearmed with an injection, locked and loaded. My daughter is then brought in and the games begin.
I appreciate that this strategy may well undermine the fragile bond of trust I have with my child, but the bond of trust I have with my GP is deepening with every vaccination.
2. Sugar-coating – vaccinations, like many of life’s harder moments, are best when sugar-coated. I take a bag of lollies. Our lolly of choice says they are “natural” on the packet and I like to tell myself they are therefore “healthy” – but that is a whole other blog post.
The lolly bag is opened before we even enter the surgery and placed in my open jacket pocket, within easy reach of one hand (see point (5) below as to why I only have one hand available).
3. Rewards – Many friends recommend the Sugar-coating as a Reward Strategy (also known as the Bribery Strategy). They lure their children into the surgery on the promise of pay-off. Suggested rewards include confectionery, small toys (large toys if your children are skilled negotiators) and more time on screen-based devices. The problem with my children is that if I attempt the Lure and Reward, they will attempt the Scream and Run.
4. Distraction – back in the day, I used to take toys, books and stickers. Now, there is only one Weapon of Mass Distraction – the iPad. The Lady and the Tramp is loaded and ready, paused at the right moment (the opening credits seem to roll for an eternity in a GP’s surgery).
I’ve also heard of GPs having bubble blowers on hand as an empowerment strategy. You give the child the bubble blower and tell them to do their best. As they pump out their best breath, in goes the needle. Genius really.
5. Back-up – Finally, I take my husband with me for certain vaccinations. He’s 25 kilos bigger than me and his amateur-wrestling hold is far more effective than mine. If all else fails, he lovingly pins my daughter down whilst I provide legal consent to the combined manhandling that is required by that stage.