Tips for school-age children & teens

Parents play an important role in supporting their children with immunizations.
Use the tips below to help your school-age child or teen have a positive immunization experience. 


Prepare your child before the visit. One day of advanced preparation is enough for most school-age children. Older children may benefit from longer preparation time, depending on how your child copes. When you discuss the appointment with your child, use the following strategies:


  • Be calm and use your normal voice.
  • Use a matter-of-fact, supportive approach.
  • Ask your child if they have ideas for how to manage the pain. This can help them to feel in control.
  • When describing how it will feel, use words that lessen anxiety, such as pressure, squeeze, or poke.
  • You can say, "You need the vaccine to stay healthy. The medicine will be put in your arm with a needle. You will feel a quick poke."


  • Use words that focus the child's attention on the needle, such as "It will be over soon, and you will be okay."
  • Give false reassurance, such as "It won't hurt."
  • Apologize - for example, "I am really sorry you have to go through this." 

Why it works

Children are very aware of the emotions of their caregivers and are sensitive to your language and tone.


When you are calm, it helps your child stay calm.  If you speak positively about immunization, your child is more likely to feel positive about it.


Recognize the effort

Keep a positive attitude. Say things like: “I’m so happy you got the vaccine!” and “I knew you could do it!” 

Numb the skin

Numbing creams and patches can be purchased without a prescription from your local pharmacy. 

Why it works

Recognizing your child's effort helps them to feel good about the skills they learned from the experience – skills that will help in difficult future situations.

The active ingredients in numbing products reduce feelings of pain by blocking pain receptors in the skin. It is important to apply these products in the right area. Ask your healthcare provider or read this handout for specific information on where to apply numbing creams or patches. 

Deep breathing

Have your child take deep breaths. Have them breathe in deeply for a count of five, then exhale deeply for a count of five. Repeat the cycle until the immunization is over.


Have your child focus their attention on a distraction immediately before and during the immunization. They can use books, listen to music, or play games or watch a video on their phone to distract themselves.

Why it works

Deep breathing makes the body relax its stress response. It also serves as a distraction.

Research shows that the part of the brain that processes pain is less active when children are distracted during vaccinations.


Is your child nervous about getting needles? They can use the CARDTM System (Comfort, Ask, Relax, Distract) for a more positive immunization experience. Check out the CARD Game for Kids and other activities on Immunize Canada. 


Improving the immunization experience at school video 

School Immunizations – The CARD™ System: Play your power CARD 

For more CARD™ resources go to the About Kids Health website.


Jesse is going to get a vaccine and is a little nervous. Jesse brought a favourite toy and used belly breathing to feel calm. There was a tiny pinch on the arm, and it was over. That was easy! Jesse is now a vaccine superhero!