One of the things I dread as a parent is taking my children for shots. In case you don’t know, my children are 10 and 14. I really thought it would be easier by now. I may some day get over the trauma of what it took to get our flu shots several times. I can’t judge them though, as I’m certain I put my mom through the same, if not worse.
Last year I managed to get both girls and myself inoculated but it was not a pretty experience. My younger one wanted to wait, she said she wasn’t ready. I was convinced she wouldn’t be ready, maybe ever, so we had to just get it done.
Luckily, every once a while, I manage to make a smart parenting decision. Later, long past the trauma of the shots, I sat down with them both and talked about how best to go about this in the future. My younger daughter told me she wanted to be warned, to have time to prepare. The older one said, no way, don’t tell her until it’s happening. This year that’s what we did.
My oldest got her shot at her annual physical. She had very little warning. It wasn’t easy for her, but she did it. I told the younger one in the morning earlier this week that we were going to get our flu shots after school. When she got home we headed out. She never tried to delay. As we sat there filling out the paperwork and waiting for the nurse to call us, she was definitely anxious and dreading it, but she didn’t complain. In the moment she was tense and stressed, but again, there were no complaints or delaying tactics.
When given the opportunity, both of my girls knew exactly what they needed to make this process less awful for them. I was skeptical, especially of the little one. But they were spot on.
For the nth time (I’ve lost count long ago) I am reminded that asking kids is the smartest choice. Ask what they need. Ask how they’re feeling. Ask what works best for them. Ask how you can help. When in doubt, ask them.
I realize that children are not little adults and have things they need from us. However, too often, I believe, we are unwilling to trust them, to give them the opportunity to make their own choices. I think children struggle to make their own choices because they so rarely have the opportunity. This isn’t to say they won’t make mistakes. Of course, so do we adults. It’s an important part of our learning and growing. It should be for them too. It can be. We have to ask them and trust them.