Mental Health Matters: Discussing the Emotional Impact of CHD on the Family

Mental Health Matters: Discussing the Emotional Impact of CHD on the Family

Congenital Heart Defects (CHDs) are among the most common birth defects, affecting an estimated 1 in every 110 newborns. While medical advancements have significantly improved the survival rates and quality of life for these children, the emotional toll on them and their families is often under-addressed. In this blog post, we'll explore the emotional impact of CHDs and share some uplifting stories and coping strategies families have employed to find strength during challenging times.

The Emotional Impact on Children

Children born with CHDs often spend a large part of their young lives in medical facilities for surgeries, check-ups, and ongoing treatments. The environment can be anxiety-inducing, leading to feelings of isolation and emotional stress. For older kids, understanding their medical condition can sometimes result in self-consciousness, decreased self-esteem, or bouts of depression.

The Emotional Toll on Parents

The diagnosis of a CHD can be a life-altering moment for parents. The dread of the unknown, the financial burden, and the emotional strain of watching their child undergo invasive procedures can lead to stress, anxiety, and sometimes even marital strife. Parents often feel isolated and burdened by the immense responsibility, which in turn affects their mental well-being.

Siblings and Extended Family

Let's not forget siblings and extended family members who also experience emotional and psychological impact. Siblings may feel neglected due to the added attention and care their brother or sister requires, leading to feelings of resentment or guilt. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and close friends often share in the emotional load but might feel helpless in providing adequate support.

Coping Strategies for Families

Open Communication

One of the most potent tools in managing emotional stress is open and honest communication. Families who regularly discuss their feelings, concerns, and hopes often navigate the emotional maze more efficiently than those who don't.

Seeking Professional Help

Psychotherapy, individual counseling, or family therapy can offer valuable coping strategies. Therapists can provide a safe space to vent and explore techniques for managing stress and improving mental well-being.

Support Groups

Joining a support group for families affected by CHDs can offer much-needed comfort and advice. The collective wisdom and shared experiences of those who have walked the same path can be invaluable.

Time for Self-Care

Parents often forget to take time for themselves, leading to burnout and increased stress. Simple acts like going for a walk, reading, or enjoying a hobby can rejuvenate the mind and soul.

Involving Siblings

Encourage siblings to talk about their feelings too. Make them a part of the journey by assigning them small responsibilities, which can make them feel included and valuable.

Celebrating Small Wins

Every milestone, whether it's a successful surgery or a simple, joyous family outing, is a win. Celebrate these moments. It instills hope and serves as a reminder of the resilience and strength of the human spirit.


  • Ollie’s Branch - “Supporting mental wellness of Heart Warriors, their families and caregivers”
  • Mended Little Hearts - Offering in-person and online support group meetings, education, visiting hospital support, and awareness
  • Hearts and Mind Counseling - Offers group counseling for parents of children with CHD and for patients with CHD, Available in AL, CO, FL, GA, IA, KS, MA, MI, NJ, OH, OK, PA, TX, VT, WI

Mental health is a critical aspect that needs more attention in the narrative surrounding CHDs. Acknowledging the emotional toll enables us to address it actively, seeking support and adopting coping strategies. The journey may be long and filled with challenges, but it is also one where families find untapped reservoirs of strength, resilience, and, most importantly, love.

By openly discussing mental health and sharing stories of how families navigate these emotional landscapes, we can contribute to a healthier, stronger community of CHD families, reminding everyone that they are not alone.