Austin E. Wilmot, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.
Children with CHD are faced with a particular challenge--the challenge to understand the meanings of their heart problems. This includes, but is not limited to, the actions taken and to-be-taken about those problems, especially as it pertains to medical procedures and other interventions. Building appropriate child-level understanding requires an adult relationship making use of child-level explanations and care with listening and words. In the absence of this, a child is left alone with the enormity of making their own meanings of CHD and their experiences. This leads the child down a path of incredible anxiety and fear as they must create their own ideas and fantasies about their condition, concluding with anxieties and extremely uncomfortable feelings that the child is then left to (impossibly) deal with on her own. The importance of helping a child to understand their own condition and the evolving landscape of what that condition means cannot be overstated.
A particular challenge for children with CHD is that the heart is not like a hand that can be seen in front of one's own eyes! And, even if it could, it is complicated, even for adults! I make this point to highlight, that for a child, much learning does take place through play and being able to touch, see and hold. We must think creatively when it comes to helping a child to understand their heart in the absence of these typical ways of learning. How a child comes to understand their heart and associate meanings to their CHD will shape their developing sense of self and body image (see Addendum 1).
To help meet this challenge, resources have come into existence in the form of animated videos that address various CHDs and related procedures. These are incredible videos that have been thoughtfully crafted. You may click the links below to see if your child's condition is included or if another resource might exist through your own Google or YouTube search. If you become aware of other resources, feel free to let me know so I can add them here!
Educational Animated Videos
https://www.texaschildrens.org/departments/cardiology/ruby-beau/educational-animation-videos - 44 videos in the collection as of August 2021
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvrsCpvkfCQ - Understanding Congenital Heart Defects - Jumo Health
https://www.youtube.com/c/JumoHealth/videos - Jumo Health Channel (list of videos, beyond cardiology)
"The body image first appears between 25 and 36 months of age when a child first recognizes his or her image in the mirror (Lemche, 1998). The body image takes shape in the discovery of the child's reflection. It is infused with relational and personal meanings as well as imaginative fantasies that the child has begun to develop and will continue to generate. Body image lies upon a framework of the previous months of body self-awareness, emerging self-awareness and interpersonal regulation (Stern, 1985; Krueger, 2002)." (Petrucelli, 82-83).
“4.” Body-States: Interpersonal and Relational Perspectives on the Treatment of Eating Disorders, by Jean Petrucelli, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2015.