Yours might be in the old playroom, in the mudroom entranceway, or in an upstairs bathroom - our family height chart was in the kitchen pantry. Once a year, on our birthdays, my sister and I would stand rod-straight, spine stretched, heels flat on the floor, with a book on our head to cast a level line. Each new year was ticked off in pencil, notched in the flaking paint, with the year scrawled beside each line. When you see someone every day, it’s hard to recognize changes; they can be so subtle, so constant, so mixed in with the noise and motion of daily life. I never actually saw my sister getting taller, but up against the pantry door jamb, the inches and feet clearly stacked up, one on top of the other.
If your family is coping with a struggling teen, you may not have noticed the daily changes, either. Maybe there was some moodiness or irritability, but that’s just normal teenage stuff, right? Possibly there have been some drops in grades, but high school is harder than middle school, isn’t it? Perhaps you’ve suddenly realized that it’s been months since you’ve seen your child’s peers over at the house, but isn’t adolescent independence developmentally appropriate? It may have been a slow accumulation of events, or it may have been a single, glaring, warning sign, but suddenly, when seen in reverse through the lens of your current understanding, the signs emerge, like the tick marks on the pantry door - there has clearly been a change.
You are not the first parent to have this experience.
When entering into the growth and healing process, it’s important to remember that there are generally no quick fixes, no panaceas, no one-size-fits-all solutions to your family’s struggles. If you’re working with a therapeutic consultant, or other referring professional, they may be making recommendations for evaluations, interventions, or even residential placements. These can be places of development and growth, but just like your child’s height over the years, that change will also take time. The important thing is that you’re in the process of searching for help, making a mark, and heading in a new direction.
About the Author
Jake Weld holds a masters degree in education and has over twenty years of experience in traditional, LD, and therapeutic schools, adolescent and young adult programs, and conventional, wilderness, and residential settings. He has served as the Executive Director of a therapeutic boarding school, the Assistant Headmaster of a specialized LD boarding school, and as the Academic and Program Director of various schools and programs. He is currently the Director of Admissions and Business Development for Mansfield Hall, a specialized college support program in Burlington, VT, and Madison, WI.