In the parenting world there are a few sensitive issues that we generally avoid talking about, unless we know the person feels the same as you on the matter. It’s one of those odd social situations where you don’t want to make another person feel uncomfortable, but at the same time, their response could have a serious impact on your decision making.
Trawl your way through any Facebook mothers’ group and you’ll find fiery topics such as circumcision, ear piercing in babies and the inevitable, vaccinations. The very mention of these issues is guaranteed to provoke a reaction in most of us so when it comes to discussing topics like vaccinations among friends, it can be tricky to know how to navigate waters in a respectful manner.
No parent wants to preach to their friends and no-one wants to tell another mother what to do. We’re all just doing our best, right? But at the end of the day, the decision to vaccinate your child not only affects your family but also those around you.
As an eight months' pregnant woman expecting my fourth child, I know all too well how difficult it can be to raise the issue of vaccination with friends - especially understanding how vulnerable newborns are in those early stages before they can be immunised.
As a community I believe we have a duty not only to look after ourselves, but to also look out for those who may be immunocompromised in society, and for that reason all of my children are vaccinated according to the recommended schedule outlined by the National Immunisation Program. While o over 93 percent of five-year-old children in Australia are vaccinated, some geographical areas' coverage is much lower. The Australian Government's latest Department of Health campaign encourages parents to get the facts about immunisation in a clear and uncomplicated way - view their website here.
Because I have seen the devastating effects of preventable diseases in someone I know, I’ve just started talking to my friends about their own child’s immunisation status. It’s not that I would like their child any less if they had different ideas on the matter to me, but I do need to do the right thing by my new baby and make sure that anyone around us is fully immunised before visiting. It’s an awkward discussion to have, but one that is necessary.
I asked a few other mothers how they would approach the issue, and while there is of course the usual heat in some people’s opinions, the answers were interesting.
What I took from the conversations was that the topic of vaccinations can be approached in social circles and can be done respectfully while still achieving the desired outcome. In my case, that's an understanding that I don’t want any unvaccinated children around my newborn baby.
The key is all in the language you use. No matter how you feel on the topic, attacking someone else's beliefs will not get you very far - well, it might but you certainly won’t be able to call that person a ‘friend’ any longer.
Knowing that one of my close friends had made a different decision about her children’s immunisation status to the one I made, I carefully broached the topic on the grounds that my job as a parent is to protect my child and sometimes that means having uncomfortable conversations to ensure they are kept safe.
I started by acknowledging that my friend had differing opinions to me on vaccination and explained that due to this, I was not comfortable with her and the children coming to see my baby until I have ensured they have received the appropriate immunisations to protect them as much as any other member of society.
I could see that my friend was upset and I assured her that it was not a reflection of us but more so of the situation. My beliefs of vaccination are strong and I’ve observed firsthand how awkward this can be when someone close to you has opposing views.
But at the end of the day, my children’s health comes first.
What's the best thing to say to a friend about immunisation for their children? Tell us your thoughts below.
This content was created with thanks to our brand partner the Australian Government Department of Health.
93% of Aussie kids are fully vaccinated, but it’s not high enough. As parents, we all need to do more to protect our kids - especially newborn babies - from serious disease. The Australian Government’s ‘Get the facts about immunisation’ campaign has been developed to give you the facts about immunisation so that you can make informed decisions in the best interests of your child and our community. Click here to get the facts about immunisation.