Family Response About a Child's Heart Disease

Having a child with heart disease affects the whole family.

The impact will vary with the personality of each family member and how severe your child's illness is. But it's safe to assume it will cause some upset and concern.

As your family grows, both physically and mentally, the feelings about your child's heart problem will change for everyone. This includes your other kids and family.

An open, honest, loving approach to your child's heart disease can help your family deal with future hardships of all kinds. Supporting each other's reactions and feelings gives you a model to use for other problems that occur in life.

The Heart Institute at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh is here for all of you. See our tips on how to support each member of your family.

Parents of a Child With Heart Disease

As parents, you're trying to cope with your child's diagnosis of heart disease. Each of you will use your own ways and take different amounts of time to adapt.

For instance, you may react to stress by getting easily angered, whereas your partner may want to be alone.

Tips for parents coping with a child's heart disease

Here are some ways you can support each other during this tough time.

  • Accept your partner's distress and respect each other's ways of handling the issue.
  • Take time to talk with each other about how you feel and how you might help each other.
  • See the Family Development Charts to learn how your child's diagnosis may affect you as parents. Also, Family Discussions may help you start to talk with each other.

The Child With Heart Disease

For a child, having a heart problem can cause many uneasy feelings and questions. These issues change as a child matures.

Tips for helping your sick child

  • Address your child's questions and feelings at each stage of development (i.e., infant, pre-school, school-age, and teen).
  • Ask your child if they have concerns when there's a change in their health or with treatment.
  • Talk with your child and urge them to talk with others. At these times, you can be the best source of comfort. And our staff is happy to help you and your child.

Brothers and Sisters

Brothers and sisters have special needs when a sibling's heart disease colors part of their life. Like you, they may have strong feelings about the heart problem and the disruption it causes.

Children, even young ones, are keen on what's happening. They're aware of a sibling's hospital stays or visits.

Tips for helping siblings cope with heart disease

It's vital you foster the ability of your other children to cope with their brother's or sister's heart disease.

  • Know the facts and react to each child based on their ages and nature.
  • Explain any conversations they may overhear about their sibling's care that them to become confused or scared.
  • Validate each child's feelings. Some kids feel their sibling's heart problem is their fault. Others feel angry that their parents allowed the heart problem to happen. Their perceptions may cause worry and stress.
  • Try to make special time for your other children. Some kids resent the extra time parents spend with their sick brother or sister.
  • Check in with your kids as they grow. Their knowledge and question about their sibling's heart disease will change as they grow older.
  • Help your kids balance between independence and a sense of responsibility. As they grow older, they may want to protect and care for their sick sibling. Taking on a caregiver role may make it harder for them to form their own independence.

Contact the Heart Institute at UPMC Children's

For the Heart Institute at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, call 412-692-5540.

Or if you don't live close to Pittsburgh, find UPMC Children's heart care near you.