Some medications are easier to take than others. When injections are involved, parents and children alike can approach the weekly ritual with equal dread. Let’s face it: Nobody likes shots! To reduce the anxiety of everyone involved, try to provide your child with a sense of control, when possible. Allow her to select the time of day when the shot is given.
Some children may develop their own personalized rituals, such as wearing a favorite hat or pair of shoes. One clinician described a girl who asked her parents to photograph various stages of the injection process. This allowed her to line the photos up ahead of time to visualize the process before administering her own shot.
Distraction also can be your child’s friend. Younger children may want to blow bubbles. An older child may fare better while chatting with a close friend by phone. Again, try to offer opportunities for choice and control. If your child prefers to watch a television program or video, let her pick the show.
As you fine tune your approach, take cues from your child’s body language to see how she’s reacting. Some children may prefer to apply a skin-numbing cream to the area. But because the cream can take some time to work – as long as an hour – that delay may amplify your child’s nerves. Similarly, while some children may want to see the shot prepared; others may want you to do it in another room.
If your child is fearful of the needle, a device called an auto-injector can hide the sharp point. In cases where your child’s fear is extreme, you may need to take additional steps to slowly desensitize her. Start by asking her only to sit in the same room with the syringe.
Later, you can ask her to hold it. Eventually, you’ll add the needle. As your child becomes more accustomed to the equipment, her fear hopefully will recede.
Calming Your Own Fears
What if you’re struggling with your own injection-related fears? Pediatric rheumatology clinics typically offer training for parents, including videos and opportunities to practice. You may be able to convince a friend or family member with a medical background to step in until you’re ready to take the responsibility. Possibly, a nearby medical clinic will give the weekly shot, for a fee. Whenever possible, try to shield your child from your anxiety because it will only amplify her own.
As time passes – and more quickly than you may realize – your child may be ready to handle giving herself her own shots. Doctors report that children as young as first- or second-graders have developed the requisite control and other skills to be able to give themselves shots. Self-administering the injection may provide your child a newfound sense of control, both literal and psychological.
On her own, your child can make subtle, instinctual adjustments as she delivers the medication, preventing the process from being painful. At the same time, she has taken a very significant step forward in tackling the medical management of her own disease. In fact, she may never want someone else to touch the needle again.