Seven steps to turn your child’s first blood test from ouch to easy
First words, first tooth, first day of school: these are just a few of the many important milestones in your child’s life.
There’s one particular milestone that you, and many other parents, probably don't want to think about: your child’s first blood test. While it’s necessary for your child’s well-being, a blood test can cause anxiety for your young one and for you.
But it doesn't have to. Here are some pointers that can help you and your child prepare for a blood test and turn it from ouch to easy.
- Honesty is best. Tell your child there is a blood test coming up. Some parents worry their child might become too anxious if they talk about the test days in advance, while others feel this will give their child time to absorb the information and calm down. You know your child best, so do what you think makes sense for his or her temperament.
- Let your child know what to expect. Prepare your child for the test by explaining the key steps that take place. Describe how the elastic band tied around the arm where the blood will be drawn may feel a bit tight but isn’t harmful, and how the alcohol swab will feel nice and cool. If your child is quite young, you may even want to use a toy figure to show how it’s all done. Keep the tone light, matter-of-fact and reassuring.
- Take the time to answer questions. Chances are, your child will have questions about the blood test. Will it hurt? How much blood will be taken? What if there isn't enough blood left after the test? Even if some of the questions seem silly, take the time to give your child clear answers. If you don't, your child’s imagination is likely to take over and fill in the blanks.
- Give your child a sense of control. Make your child an active participant in this first-time event by asking him or her to make some decisions, such as what favourite toy or book to bring to the lab or what snack to eat right after the test. Let your child know that the patient plays the starring role in the blood test and that it’s important to be very still during the test.
- Keep your emotions in check. It’s not unusual for parents to feel anxious about their child going for a blood test. For some parents, this anxiety is heightened by their own fear of needles. Take care not to let your child know about any negative feelings you may have about the blood test.
- Have a distraction plan. Come to the lab armed with a plan for distracting your child during the test. Make a list of questions to ask about your child’s favourite interests, or surprise your child with a hand puppet – which you’ll produce, of course, at just the right moment.
- Work with the lab team. Take a friendly attitude with the staff at the lab. This will help your child feel comfortable with the lab technician and reduce resistance during the test. If you're worried your child will panic, tell the lab team so they can work with you on a solution.
By following these tips, you can turn your child’s first blood test from an unpleasant and potentially traumatizing experience into one that's comfortable for you and your child.