"I felt less alone, and like I knew what choice to make."

Your story can shape their experience.

What do you wish you'd known about showering after gym class, getting between best friends fighting, setting boundaries in parked cars, the ultimate value of "permanent records," or your parents' agenda for your schooling, career, and life – among a thousand other confusing and isolating topics?

How much would being told what to think have helped? Not much, probably. But how much would having your parents share their experiences – even failures – and what they wish they'd known have helped? Probably a lot more.

There are a few keys to delivering advice. It needs to lead with story, preferably news, and preferably vulnerable news. It needs to be offered but not forced ... made available for consumption on the other person's timeline. It needs to mark a threshold, a "congratulations on getting to this point ... you're going to need to pay attention to some new stuff on this leg of your adventure ... here's what happened to me and what you may want to watch for." 

Frankly, the advice doesn't have to be awesome. When we offer advice well, what we mostly offer is companionship, support, and affiliation. What's most important is that it's offered in love, and with intention.


  • Giver interview
  • Big idea summary
  • Anecdotes
  • Quotes
  • Printed, nondescript book
  • Gift journal
  • Mixtape
  • Honoring event / experience
  • 2-6 month total engagement time

Please think of this as an abbreviated list of variations from which we can build the engagement.

We make more big decisions, and take on more false ideas about ourselves, during threshold experiences than between thresholds. If someone else risks sharing a story first, we're far more likely to respond in kind, and to navigate, adjust, and heal more effectively. As families practice this approach, they build a strength of communication that grows and prepares the family for more and more significant thresholds.

There are standard developmental thresholds to consider. First day of school. Loss of a pet. Junior high. High school. First love. College. First job. Marriage. First child. Various marital challenges. Loss of a parent. (A parent's voice is always among the loudest ... it's okay to offer threshold guidance to a 40 year-old son or daughter.)

There are also personal thresholds that are at least as critical. When your third grader feels dumb. When your fifth grader feels ugly. When your high school sophomore is rejected. When your daughter isn't sure she wants to stay married after what her husband did. When your son loses his job. When faith is abandoned. Any place where the burdens of love draw your to a place where you want to offer something sacred of yourself.

It is extremely challenging to care tremendously, and to offer guidance – especially into a place of fear or shame – in ways that it is received. But it's far easier if it happens at several places along the way, and if by this effort the stories within the family become stories of the family.