For Teens

Growing Up with CHD

You can manage your CHD and have an active, healthy teen experience by learning how to care for yourself.

CHD can affect you during the teen years differently than your peers, physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. Learning what some of these differences might be for you can help you adjust and deal with them so you can stay healthy and act just like many other teens.

Differences Related to CHD

Some of these differences may be related to:
  • Growth: As a teen with CHD, you may notice your body developing slower than your peers. We have learned that having multiple surgeries when you were younger might make you hit puberty a little later than your friends. All teens develop at their own pace though, so this is ok.
  • Monitoring: You may have to take time to monitor your health, check in before or after you participate in activity or take special time off.
  • Visible Devices or Scars: You may have devices that are visible or hidden, but that you have to know how to take care of during your day when you are not with your family. Surgical scars, and the need for medical therapies such as oxygen or feeding tubes may make you feel different from others and very self-conscious about yourself. Many of your peers (even those without CHD’s!) also have insecurities about their bodies. It is helpful to know that you are not alone, and you should feel comfortable talking to a trusted adult and/or your doctor about any concerns you have.
  • Symptoms: Certain heart conditions can cause you to live with symptoms that are obvious to others, such as constant cyanosis (blue tinted lips and nail beds) or feeling tired.

Building Self-Confidence

The most important thing to remember is that you are loved and cared for, and it is important to celebrate our differences. You may find yourself feeling down some days and this is normal. There are things you can do to boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. There are also times when you may not be able to go it alone.

Most of all, be proud of your heart. Not many people in the world can say that they have such a special and unique heart!

Things to Consider

Talk about your physical appearance with trusted friends and family. They understand your illness and can help you feel confident in who you are, and help create solutions for challenges you face. Discuss with a parent/guardian ways to answer questions people may ask you about your appearance.

Learn about your medications, when and how to take them, and possible side effects of treatment. Discuss with those you trust (parents, guardians, providers) options that may exist for coping with, reducing, or possibly eliminate side effects. One example is increased acne, that may be treated by a dermatologist, or by talking to your provider about alternative medications. Make sure your cardiologist is aware of these concerns and can help you to manage any possible interactions with other medicines or treatments.

Don’t hold yourself back from activities you enjoy. Get involved in things you take pride in or like doing such as music, art, writing, robotics, or other clubs and activities. Spending time on things you enjoy is a great way to avoid focusing too much on concerns you may have about your outward appearance

Talk with your doctor about recreational sports or clubs you can get involved in. Learn about what you need to know and do to be able to participate in a way that feels normal and comfortable.

It is important to acknowledge days and times when you may feel down or sad, as much as it is important to acknowledge days and times when you feel good or happy. There are some resources that can help you identify when it is just a brief period, or when you might want to ask for help.

It is okay to want to talk with someone about how you feel, and there are many options from a trusted friend, a provider, or a mental health counselor. No matter what challenges you face, you are not alone, it is okay to feel how you feel, and it is okay to talk to someone who can help.


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