Coping with the stress of having a child with CHD can at times be draining, isolating, and exhausting. This is true whether the stress is caused by a big event – like a new diagnosis or a surgery – or by the day-to-day worries of caring for your child.

Some parents feel weak or like something is wrong with them when they struggle after a CHD diagnosis. But it is both normal and very common to have difficulty managing emotions and anxieties about your child’s medical condition at any point on your CHD care journey.

Speaking with someone – whether it is talking to a mental health professional or attending a support group – can help you feel better and improve your ability to cope with emotions and challenges in healthy ways.

Your family will be living with CHD for a lifetime, so learning how to manage stress and get the support you need is important for the wellbeing of you and your family.

If you feel like you need help, please reach out. There are many people and resources available to help you through this uncertain and challenging time. Getting emotional support can be very beneficial and even critical for your mental health.

Sources of Emotional Support

Friends & Family

Many parents find comfort in talking and spending time with their spouse/partner, friends, family members, or their faith or church community.

Your Child’s Care Team

A care team that understands your emotions, provides a safe place for you to share your feelings, and supports you and your partner in making decisions can be extremely helpful to both of you.

CHD Parents

Hundreds of thousands of families have gone through this experience. Many more are just starting their journey. You can connect with a community of CHD parents online or through local support groups. Some CHD parent groups will try to match you with a parent mentor. Some hospitals also have a peer mentorship program. Ask your social worker for information about the resources that are available to you.

Mindful Activities

Activities that bring you joy or help you relax can be a great source of emotional support. This includes relaxation tools like breathing exercises, guided meditation, and mindfulness. You can find many resources online to get started.

Do I Need Help From a Mental Health Professional?

No matter how many people or activities you have in your life, there may be times when you need to seek a more formal type of support from a mental health professional.

You might consider getting professional help if:

  • You are having difficulty doing the regular activities in your typical day

  • You have rapid mood swings or feel out of control of your emotions

  • You feel hopeless or sad most of the time

  • You worry excessively or feel anxious most or all of the time

  • You can’t stop thinking about a recent traumatic event

  • You feel like a “ticking time bomb”

  • You have irrational fears, which may cause extreme anxiety or interrupt your daily life

Key Things to Know About Seeing a Mental Health Professional

  • 1. How they can help

    A mental health professional is a neutral person who listens to what you are thinking and feeling. They are trained to help people handle difficult situations. Through individual or group therapy, a mental health professional can provide ongoing support for you, your children, and other family members as needed. They will help you find ways to handle stress, provide you with solutions that fit your needs, and suggest strategies to help you manage your emotions or other reactions.

  • 2. Who they are

    Psychologists, social workers, counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists are all mental health professionals. If you do not already have a mental health provider, you may want to explore the type of mental health professional who can provide the best support for your situation.

  • 3. How to get support through your care team

    Many parents talk with their child’s care team as a first step when seeking emotional support. Tell your child’s physician if you are struggling emotionally or with anxiety. Someone on the care team can usually arrange for a clinical social worker to meet with you. They can provide you with some initial emotional support and talk with you about other options available to you – including local support groups and resources.

  • 4. How to find mental health professionals through your insurance

    Another way to find care is to contact your insurance Member Services Department (the phone number is usually found on the back of your insurance card). They can give you a list of covered mental health professionals. You may also be able to find a list of participating mental health professionals on your insurance company’s website.

Where to Find Emotional Support

I learned if you want to help other people, you have to know how to accept help yourself.

Missy, CHD Parent

PARENT TIPMake Self-Care a Priority

Parents often have high expectations of what they can manage and may wonder, “my child is going through all the surgeries, so why am I the one falling apart?” Judging yourself and negative self-talk will not help you or your child. Instead try to focus on positive ways you can take care of yourself by getting emotional support. While you cannot change the fact that your family is living with CHD, you can write the story of how you deal with it.

Get Emotional Support for Both Parents

It is common for the care team to focus on the mother (especially after a prenatal diagnosis), but the partner can also experience profound emotional reactions. They often set aside their own needs to be a “rock” for the mother, supporting her through the shock. When a partner ignores their own emotional reactions, they are at risk for not getting adequate support. Your care team should involve both parents when sharing information about your child’s CHD. This includes helping the partner learn how to get the support they need and to better support the mother.

LIVE HELPUrgent Emotional Support

If you are experiencing a mental health emergency call 9-1-1 or go to the closest Emergency Room

National Suicide Prevention Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)

National Parent Helpline
1-855-427-2736 (1-855-4A PARENT)

Crisis TEXT Line
Text “HOME” or “HELLO” to 741741

For moms who have recently delivered a child:

National Postpartum Depression Hotline
1-800-PPD-MOMS (800-773-6667)

Postpartum Support International Helpline
1-800-944-4773 or text 503-894-9453
Note: This is a “warmline” – leave a message and someone will call you back within 24 hours

Mental Health Support

  • Ollie Hinkle Heart Foundation
    A foundation that provides free mental health support to heart families in the St. Louis region.

  • Bright Heart Foundation (Tennessee)
    An organization that provides mental health care to those living with CHD, family members that care for those with CHD, and CHD healthcare providers.

Meditation and Mindfulness Websites & Applications

  • Healthyminds Innovations
    Free podcast-style lessons, and both seated and active meditations.

  • Calm
    Some free guided meditation and mindfulness practices. Multi-session courses are available with a subscription.

  • InsightTimer
    Some free guided meditation and mindfulness practices, multi-session courses with subscription, and lots of variety to find the type of support that fits you.

  • Headspace
    Learn the essentials of meditation and mindfulness through a free basics course. Additional courses and resources are available with a subscription.


For some people there is a negative connotation or stigma, but it is very normal to see a mental health professional. You may need this support for a short period of time, or intermittently. Finding this support for yourself is a sign that you are prioritizing your health, which makes you stronger and improves your ability to care for yourself and your child.

The stress after a CHD diagnosis can be intense and is unlike anything many parents have ever experienced before. Mental health professionals are trained to respond to the specific needs of people who are experiencing strong emotions or major changes, and can help you through the challenges.

No. Some parents go through the care journey without feeling the need to see a mental health professional. However, most parents will at times talk with someone – such as a social worker on their care team.

There is no “best” tool to help manage stress and anxiety. What works for one person may not help another. We recommend just trying everything you would like to try and seeing which approach seems to work the best for you. You may need to try different types of tools – such as breathing exercises, meditation, mindfulness – to find the one that’s most helpful to you.