In the Cayman Islands, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is now available to children aged 12-15. But with all the news coverage and global uncertainty over the last 18 months, it’s understandable that there may be hesitation or questions around getting your children vaccinated.
Before taking your child to the vaccination clinic or speaking to a healthcare professional, it’s important for parents to explain the vaccine’s importance, correct any misinformation, and address any fears their children may have.
Here’s our advice for parents to make the conversations with their children surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine comfortable and open.
Be Informed and Up to Date
Social media, particularly for this age group, is usually front and centre of their daily lives and this can expose them to a lot of “fake news”. There are many misinformation and conspiracy theories out there, such as the COVID-19 vaccines containing microchips, 5G, and claims that COVID-19 doesn’t exist on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.
Before starting the conversation, it’s important that YOU are well-informed about COVID-19, the available vaccines and how they affect the human body. As a parent, your children will look up to you for guidance and understanding, so separating fact from fiction is critical to making them feel at ease.
Use Reliable Sources
Where you get your information is just as important as the information you share, and reliable resources are the key. When doing your research look at the validity of where you find the information. If you’re looking at statistics in isolation, see if the source shares the sample size, length of the study, who was involved, and key findings. For example, “66%” sounds like a high statistic but it’s the same as two out of a total of three people.
Where should you start with your research? Use our Cayman Islands Government dedicated website to start, but if you’re expanding your research, stick to credible and trusted sources including speaking to a medical professional or research other governing bodies who have accountability and regulatory compliance to follow. This means they legally have to be transparent about what they publish (the good and the bad).
Our “Must-Reads” on the COVID-19 vaccine:
- COVID-19 Guidance: Vaccines
- Is there any advantage to getting a COVID-19 vaccine now rather than later?
- What to expect when you get your COVID-19 vaccine in the Cayman Islands
Use Clear and Simple Language
Discussing COVID-19 and vaccines can be complicated (for adults as well!), therefore, using simple, kid-friendly language is the best way for children and teens to digest the information about vaccines and how they work.
Use simple analogies and explanations that they can relate to. You could even use diagrams or physical representations and videos, but avoid the scientific or technical terminologies often used by adults or their long Latin names.
Avoid creating subconscious bias or stigma
You should also try to avoid using language or terms that can imply blame to others, or a group of people. Children can be highly influenced by their peers or school environment, so it’s important to avoid creating this kind of stigma.
Create a Two-Way Communication
Adults tend to use an “I’m the adult so I know better” approach, but for teens in particular this can have the opposite effect. Communication is a two-way street, so talking to your children about the vaccine is easier if they’re able to share what they’ve heard or already know about the subject. This is also a great opportunity to debunk any myths and even read online resources together.
Find out what they know by asking questions and listening intently to everything they have to say. Take them seriously and acknowledge their openness which can encourage them to continue the discussion. If they share something absurd or untrue, don’t embarrass them by reacting negatively, simply explain the facts and show them evidence.
The pandemic has caused a lot of stress and challenges for adults, and children have witnessed all that’s been going on. Be honest about the situation and explain it in an age-appropriate way. Let your child know that it’s okay to feel upset or anxious, you could even share how you felt about COVID-19 or the vaccine initially and why.
Be prepared before your conversation, but if you don’t know the answer, don’t make something up. Use it as a chance to find the answers together. This also becomes a way to bond and give them reassurance on the vaccine’s safety. We have some vaccine FAQs here which may help give you some common questions and answers as a starting point.
Let them explore their feelings
Your children may be anxious, scared, stressed, or a combination and that’s okay; it’s been a difficult year! Just be there to reassure them and help them get through any difficult emotions they might have because of the situation.
For younger children, pretend play or drawing can help them explore their feelings and give you a deeper understanding of their current emotional and mental state. Your goal is to make them feel comfortable talking to you or any other adult in the family about vaccines and this starts with honesty.
For more on this, the CDC has provided additional resources to help parents support their child’s well-being amidst the pandemic.
Ultimately, a vaccine can be stressful and bring out a lot of emotions in children and teens. The best way to approach this is by having an open and informed discussion backed by science. Listen to their feelings, reassure them and it should make the whole process a lot smoother for everyone.
Remember, the COVID-19 vaccination will protect against serious illness and death from COVID-19 and other Variants of Concern. If you have questions about your child getting a COVID-19 vaccine, talk to your child's doctor. The above should not replace the advice of your child’s attending physician. They might be able to help you weigh the risks and benefits.
Visit our COVID-19 vaccine pages to learn more about the vaccine and how it works.