When children have heart attacks



For years children have told me their hearts hurt. When I ask them where it hurts, they will lay their little hands over their hearts and say,

“It hurts right here.”

You might say these little ones are having heart attacks. We don’t usually think about little children having a heart attack.

The kind of “heart attack” I’m talking about is affecting thousands of children. It is the emotional and spiritual heart attack they experience when their family falls apart.

The family could be a divorcing family, a never married family, ow even a step/blended family situation. To a child, it makes no difference if their parents were legally married or involved in a cohabitation situation.

Many children are experiencing a monumental crisis at an early age in life. To a child, an emotional heart attack can be as devastating as a physical heart attack in adults. Said another way, these children are traveling through a devastating life event.

Damage from the attack

  • The emotional heart attack can leave scars that will affect the child when they become an adult.
  • As they try to form relationships or enter into a marriage, they may be lacking in relational skills.
  • Spiritual lives may be affected as they struggle to understand a Heavenly Father when they have no relationship with an earthly father.
  • A relationship with Christ may be hindered because they can’t understand how anyone could love them enough to die on the cross for their soul. How can we expect them to understand Christ as a Savior when one of the parents walked away from the family?

What to do? We can teach children to “Wait for the Lord, be strong and let your heart take courage.” Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

Church leaders and children’s ministers can help by

  • Demonstrating love for Christ
  • Modeling healthy relationships between people
  • Showing them what a life of faith looks like
  • Praying with them and for them
  • Sharing how our prayers are answered
  • Introducing them to God’s word
  • Providing them with scriptures on a regular basis
  • Talking about how to care for their hurting hearts by giving them hope and encouragement

Church leaders and loving Christian adults can be the catalyst that mends the broken heart.

You can be the one that soothes the pain of the heart attack.

You can be the one that applies the salve to the hurting heart.

You might be the only person that makes a difference in a child’s understanding of life.

More than anything you can be the one who recognizes a child-like heart attack.

“Therefore the king said to me, ‘Why is your face sad, since you are not sick? This is nothing but sorrow of heart.’” Nehemiah 2:2 (NKJV)


This article is updated and adapted from an article originally published on the Kids & Divorce blog on February 26, 2015.

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3 thoughts on “When children have heart attacks

  1. Pingback: Blog – When children have heart attacks | Journey Through Divorce

  2. My young daughter had a very real and life-threatening heart attack. The title of your article was very misleading and I would not agree that children from a divorced home have suffered a heart attack. I know the message you are trying to convey is coming from a good place, but why not say the children of divorce are suffering from a broken heart instead of a heart attack? A suggestion I hope you would consider knowing that many children suffer from actual, real and devastating heart attacks. And placing “heart attack” in quotes doesn’t help.

    • Angie, I do understand what you are saying. However, I have worked with children of divorce who think they are having a heart attack because their heart actually hurts. That is the closest they can come to explaining the hurt they have inside. I also understand heart surgeries as my nephew had to have several surgeries in his short life.

      We had one leader that was talking about hearts, our hand-held puppet has a heart-shaped face, when a little girl said, “Look! My heart used to hurt real bad until I had surgery.” She then lifted her shirt to show everyone her scar. She was proud of her surgery.

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