Category Archives: Family

See God as Relevant to Their Lives

Many Christian parents have asked themselves this question. Their anxiety is understandable. They’ve heard the stories of kids who’ve left home and announced that they would no longer follow the family’s faith. In our work with young adults, we’ve witnessed such stories too often. Despite the historical footprint of Christianity in America, its mark on today’s young people is not as visible as it has been with previous generations.

But there is hope. While church attendance may be down, it’s surprising how many of today’s young people pray and hunger for real answers. Many desire to live a meaningful life, one that helps mend a broken world. But they’re not sure how to do it. They haven’t recognized how the faith they were taught fuels an authentic life.

As parents, we can trust that God will continue to pursue the hearts of those who are wandering. And we can partner with Him to help our kids see His love, truth and wisdom as a relevant, authentic source of strength. Here are some principles to remember as you help your children develop a faith that is worth holding on to:


Authentic faith is an integral part of life

Apologist Sean McDowell hears a number of explanations for why young people leave the church. “It can be for moral reasons. … It can be relational, spiritual or intellectual,” Sean says. Still, he sees a common thread through the different stories: Young people don’t see a connection between what the adults in their lives believe spiritually and how these adults actually live. “They’ve seen how spiritual things help on Sunday morning and Wednesday night,” he says, “but don’t see how it translates into their everyday lives.”

As parents, we have the opportunity and responsibility to help our children see Christianity in a holistic and meaningful way, to recognize how God’s loving wisdom applies to how they compete on the field, how they behave at school and how they interact with others.

In other words, we should discuss everyday activities with our kids through the lens of God’s Word. Make it a lively, normal part of life. Be open to questions, especially ones that keep the conversation going. Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but teens really do crave spiritual conversations with the adults in their lives. Not lectures, but real conversations. God instructs us to talk about His truth every day with our kids (Deuteronomy 6).

We must also provide space in our kids’ schedules for growing their faith. If children invest most of their time in sports, music, gaming or anything else that overshadows developing their faith, then essentially that activity is more important to your family than spiritual growth.

If our kids’ faith is to last, they need to see the Gospel as the center of the home. It can’t be just a part of the family routine twice a week; it must be an essential foundation for all of life.


Relevant faith helps us navigate the dark

A mother of three recently talked to us about her parenting journey. Mrs. Lee told us that she wishes she’d done better at helping her boys engage the culture, with all its pitfalls, risks and misguided worldviews. “I was more concerned with trying to protect them,” she told us. “My husband and I would freak out if the boys were around things we were trying so hard to protect them from. By the time they went off to college, it was a real culture shock.”

We’ve heard many moms and dads express similar thoughts. As parents, we can become so overly protective that we don’t lean into God’s protection for our children. We try to shield them from the consequences of their choices and from the challenges and obstacles of the world. But constant protection from a world that they will soon live in isn’t healthy for a child and his faith. Indeed, young adults from overprotective homes often end up rebelling, abandoning church or hanging out with the wrong crowd.

We must consistently show our kids that faith is compatible with the harsh realities of the real world. And not just compatible, but also essential for facing those challenges. When your child recognizes faith as a true source of strength — when it helps her overcome temptation, persecution, relationship problems or bad decisions — she is far more likely to rely on that source in the future.

Daughter Ready to Date

You can remember her braids, dolls and favorite blanket like it was yesterday. Yet your teen daughter may have caught up with you in height (or surpassed you) and is now a young woman. She’s navigating an exciting and challenging season of greater independence, friendships, school and social activities. And then there are boys.

The teenage dating scene can be intense and full of drama — from exciting new relationships to painful breakups and ruined friendships. As parents, we want our daughters to mature and engage in healthy relationships, so it’s important for us to help them navigate these experiences so they will be prepared for that one most important, committed relationship down the road.


Her identity in Christ

A large part of preparing your teen for a healthy future relationship is helping her first become a healthy individual who finds her identity in Christ and who isn’t looking for a relationship to keep loneliness, insecurity or discontentment at bay.

Mary Anne Locke, a godly friend of mine who raised two daughters, used to gently remind her girls, “The times when you find yourself looking for a boyfriend because you feel like you ‘need’ one are the seasons when you are actually furthest from being in a healthy place to date someone.” Why? At those times, they were looking to date in order to feel more important, more accepted or more popular.

Mary Anne used these times to emphasize to the girls their significance and worth in Christ alone. She taught them that, ultimately, a healthy relationship isn’t supposed to fulfill them, but rather enhance the person they’ve already discovered themselves to be.


Who she is as an individual

Mary Anne also encouraged her girls to pay attention to the things that made them feel most alive. For one daughter, it was every weekday afternoon when she visited a local elementary school to read to younger children. Through this experience, she discovered her love of teaching and decided to become an educator. For her other daughter, it was a study-abroad experience that made history come alive. Helping your daughter know herself and see her own strengths, passions and God-given calling allows her to discern if someone she is dating truly complements her strengths and rounds out her weaknesses.


Every relationship counts

Teens need to understand that every flirtation, date or relationship in which they engage matters. It can be easy to think, It’s only one date, or We’re just having fun. But according to Laura Gallier, the author of Why Wait? and Choosing to Wait, every encounter they have either lowers, maintains or raises their standard for what is acceptable with the opposite sex.

Establish a standard that emphasizes honor and respect. For instance, you can let your daughter know that anyone she wants to go out with must agree to meet you and be respectful toward her in front of her friends. These may seem like old-fashioned ideals, but without establishing standards, she may adopt an “anything goes” mentality — based on avoiding embarrassment and wanting to belong.

Encourage your daughter to expect even one-time dates to treat her with the same respect she would want from her future husband. How she allows these young men to treat her now paves the way for how she’ll allow her husband to treat her in the future.


Value patience and boundaries

High school is not the time for any experience to reach its pinnacle, according to Mary Anne. The teen years are just the beginning. This is important for girls to understand because a relationship that develops too quickly often has a way of shrinking a teen’s world rather than expanding it. The teenage years are for friendship, growth and preparation.

Contrary to what our culture communicates, we need to teach our kids that dating is not primarily about being with someone your teen finds attractive, Laura Gallier says. In the teen years, the purpose of dating is to learn about the opposite sex and begin figuring out the kind of person your teen would want to spend the rest of her life with. Before your daughter says yes to a date, remind her about the big picture of exploring healthy, God-honoring options.

The teen years are a time to establish the foundation for healthy relationships so that once the wedding day comes and goes, the commitment to honor vows and continue on a path of love and faithfulness stays strong.

Help make your days joy

The responses to an open-ended online survey question were heart-wrenching.

“Those five years ruined everything. My self-identity is sad, melancholic, shy, retiring and angry… never content or at peace.”

“It has hampered me all my working life.”

“Problems with relationships with the opposite sex my whole life made me think something was wrong with me.”

“I will never know the person I could have become….”


Lasting Scars of Childhood Sexual Abuse

All of those comments were made by adult men who had experienced sexual abuse at the hands of clergy, particularly priests, when they were children. Collected as part of a 2010 survey, they illustrate the insidious harm that can follow individuals throughout their lives when they are badly hurt — physically or emotionally — as children.

A study of more than 21,000 child abuse survivors age 60 and older in Australia found they reported a greater rate of failed marriages and relationships.

(See below for a video of one such man.)

Childhood sexual abuse is just one type of early trauma that can affect one’s life for decades — even into middle age and beyond. Research has shown that childhood trauma, ranging from parents’ divorce to alcoholism in the home, increases the odds of heart disease, stroke, depression, suicide, diabetes, lung diseases, alcoholism and liver disease later in life. It also increases risky health behaviors like smoking and having a large number of sexual partners. And it contributes to “low life potential,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

A nervous father interviews

I was seated at my desk, barely able to concentrate. I shifted papers, opened drawers, glanced out the window. Shifted papers, opened drawers, glanced out the window. Shifted papers … I felt like I was expecting an important phone call and was just trying to do something, anything, productive while waiting. But it wasn’t working.

Neither was I.

Finally, my executive assistant informed me that the young man I’d been expecting was waiting for me in the lobby.

Deep breath, Dennis. You’re the adult here. You can do this. I was about to interview the first of many young men who wanted a date with one of my daughters.

I stood to my feet and walked across the room, still amazed at how nervous I was as I stepped into the lobby to meet Kevin—the only person in the building more anxious and ill at ease than I.

“Afternoon, Kevin, glad you could make it.”

“Hello, Mr. Rainey.”

“How about we get something from the Coke machine. I hear you’re a Dr. Pepper man.”

“Yes, sir.”

Riding a very thin wave of forced, uncomfortable chitchat, I deposited enough money to dislodge a cold Coke for him and a Diet Coke for me. Then, not wanting to be the Ultimate Intimidator, I suggested we go outside and chat in the parking lot. That’s where he showed me his motorcycle—which wasn’t exactly how I wanted Ashley to go out on her first date!

I opened my soft drink and looked squarely into the same eyes that enjoyed looking at my 16-year-old daughter. We began with the basics. I asked him about school, his mom and dad and family, interests—just a general get-to-know-you type of conversation.

“God made men and women different”

“Kevin,” I said, hoping I’d also remember the rest of the words I wanted to say, “God did a wonderful thing when he made women.”

The color fell from his face. This was going to be worse than he had thought. I wondered if at any moment he might hop on that motorcycle and bolt!

I continued. “And, Kevin, God made men and women different. You’ve probably noticed some of those differences.”

Kevin was getting paler by the minute, but he had the presence of mind to nod.

“Actually, God made us different so that men and women would be attracted to one another. Now, Kevin,” I paused for dramatic effect, “you have probably noticed that God made Ashley quite attractive. She’s a really cute girl. In fact, you’ve probably noticed that she has a cute figure.”

This was less of a statement and more of a question. If Kevin said no, he and I would both know he was lying. If he said yes, however, he was admitting to the obvious: that he had the audacity to notice my daughter’s figure!

After a brief pause, I spared him the agony and continued.

“I mean, you’re a young man and Ashley is a young lady, and God made men and women to be attracted to one another. It’s good.” Kevin seemed to be relieved at my pronouncement. I went on.

“And, Kevin, I just want you to know that I am a man and I understand this attraction. I was once a teenage boy, and I know what teenage boys think about. I’ve even read some research on this, and the studies show that teenage boys think about sex every seven seconds.”

Job and Love It

I was never the kind of woman who was good with babies. Oh, I could admire them just fine. I just didn’t have the first clue about caring for them.

When I was a new mom, my friend came over and tossed around my baby in total comfort. She held Ethan one way, then casually flipped him to rest on her forearm, then cradled him close and then held him out. She gave him back to me with a breezy smile, and I robotically put my hands under his armpits and pulled him cautiously toward me. To me, he seemed like a piece of china that might break. My friend treated him like a football.

I remember being intimidated by my friend’s skill and finesse. And she didn’t even have any children! How was I going to be a good mom? I couldn’t even hold my baby confidently.

In the beginning, the parenting journey can feel overwhelming. Looking back at those early years, I now recognize a few fundamentals that have helped me find my bearings whenever I’ve felt lost.


Accept no substitutes

When Ethan was about 6 weeks old, he was crying upstairs in his crib. I had several parenting books open on the kitchen table. I flipped pages frantically. What was wrong? Was he hungry? Wet? Too cold? I tentatively walked up the stairs. By the time I reached his bedroom door, he was really screaming. I reached for my son and asked, “How are you doing, little one?”

To my surprise, he stopped crying. His shaking ceased. He blinked and closed his eyes. I waited a few moments, and then quietly left the room. Apparently, he just needed to know I was around.

There is simply no substitute for your presence in your child’s life. No one can know and nurture him like you can. Even when you feel woefully inadequate, there’s no one better equipped to parent your child. God gave your children to you. And He built them to be in relationship with you.

When you intentionally parent every day, making an effort to continuously connect with your child, your child will grow and thrive. In his book The Power of the Other, Dr. Henry Cloud discusses the power of physical and emotional connection between parents and children. Studies show that children without such relationships don’t learn as well, don’t grow as well and are never as healthy as those with attentive parents. “The invisible attributes of relationship, the connection between people, have real, tangible and measurable power,” Cloud writes. And this isn’t just true with babies. Children and people of all ages, according to Cloud, “succeed at a much greater rate if they are connected to a strong human support system.”

So just keep showing up. Don’t get stuck comparing yourself to other parents. Don’t allow technology to be a substitute parent. The latest and greatest educational app can’t come close to the value of your instruction and guidance. Let your words and actions communicate, every day, to your child, “I am for you. You are important to me. I see you.”


Value humility over self-esteem

Do your family a favor and avoid buying your child cute T-shirts that sport messages like “I Am My Favorite Princess” or “There’s No Awesome Without Me.” What’s wrong with these messages? Haven’t psychologists continually told us to bolster a child’s self-esteem?

With the rise of the self-esteem movement, kids haven’t become more emotionally healthy. A 2015 study at Ohio State University found that parental overvaluation — teaching a child that he is more awesome than classmates and friends — was the largest predictor of a child’s narcissism over time. Perhaps more interesting is that this overvaluation didn’t lead to better self-esteem, just a bigger ego.

Dr. Leonard Sax is a family physician and psychologist who sees more than 90,000 families a year. In his book The Collapse of Parenting, Dr. Sax says the first job of parents should be to teach their child humility. “Humility simply means being as interested in other people as you are in yourself,” he writes. “It means that when you meet new people, you try to learn something about them before going off on a spiel about how incredible your current project is. … The opposite of humility is inflated self-esteem.”

You don’t want your child to grow up to be a puffed up 30-year-old who’s resentful because no one recognizes how awesome she is. You want a 30-year-old who’s open to correction, grateful for what she has and ready to contribute.

You know what kind of T-shirt I’d like to buy for my 7-year-old? One that reads, “Nice to Meet You.”


Never stop learning

When I was potty training Ethan, I charted every wet Pull-Up and successful trip to the bathroom. I read books and asked other moms for advice. For weeks, I lived potty training with the passion and precision of a toilet ninja.

With preschoolers, we tend to be very intentional about educating ourselves as parents. What food is best? When should my son know his ABCs? But after our children begin school, I think we often drift away from being students of our children.

I am convinced that if we will take the time to study our children and learn about the next stage of development, it will make our parenting journey smoother and happier. Gobble up advice from friends and experts about what’s going to be happening with your child in the next few years.

Focus on biblical priorities in our parenting

We will never forget that incredible moment when our daughter Ashley was born. The doctor cleaned her up and handed her to us. Dennis recalls that he wanted to blurt out, “Thanks for the gift, but where are the instructions?”

When we started out, we had a few ideas of what it meant to be a parent and raise children. Two years later we added a son and we realized that we had better become intentional about what we wanted to do as parents and teach our children.

As a result we began a list of 25 things we wanted to teach our children. Then it became 40, 50, and even more. (For your sake we’ve shortened the list back to the top 40.) Some of these lessons began during the first year for each of our six children, while others were emphasized later during childhood or adolescence. Today our children are adults and our role in their lives has changed. We have moved from being teachers to being cheerleaders and advisors, when asked.

Raising children requires huge chunks of time, prayer, discipline, involvement, and relationship-building. This list of values and traits has helped us focus on biblical priorities in raising children to become mature adults of faith and godly character.

  1. Above all, fear God.
  2. Respect authority—trust and obey your parents.
  3. The importance of friendships.
  4. Be in love with Christ and focus on your relationship with Him, not just on doctrine or on biblical principles.
  5. Have compassion for the poor and orphans.
  6. Believe God for too much rather than too little.
  7. Real strength is found in serving, not in being served.
  8. The power of moral purity and a clean conscience.
  9. How to motivate people without manipulating them.
  10. How to handle failure.
  11. Keep your promises.
  12. The power of the tongue for good or evil.
  13. Give too much rather than too little.
  14. The importance of manners and common courtesies.
  15. View life through God’s agenda—the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).
  16. Give thanks to God in all things.
  17. The importance of prayer.
  18. The art of asking good questions, carrying on good conversation.
  19. How to grow as a Christian.
  20. How to handle temptation.
  21. By faith, trust Christ as your Savior and Lord, and share with others how to become a Christian.
  22. Seeking wisdom—skill in everyday living. Knowing how to make good decisions.
  23. Gaining a sense of God’s direction and destiny for your life.
  24. Stay teachable and do not become cynical.
  25. Obtain godly counsel.
  26. The importance of flexibility and adaptability to cope in life.
  27. Truth is best passed on through relationships.
  28. Leave a legacy of holiness.
  29. Keep life manageable. Prioritize decisions.
  30. Tame selfishness—you can’t always get your way.
  31. Choices are yours to make and results are yours to experience.
  32. Respect the dignity of other people—all people.
  33. Be faithful in the little things.
  34. Character is the basis of all leadership.
  35. Life isn’t fair—don’t compare with or be jealous of others.
  36. Live by commitments, not by feelings.
  37. Express grace and forgiveness.
  38. A strong work ethic.
  39. Surrender to the authority of Christ.
  40. How to handle your finances.

Protecting Your Son From Aggressive Girls

One of my primary responsibilities as the father of four daughters was to help protect them from losing their innocence, especially as they approached the adolescent years.  As part of this effort, I met and talked with nearly every young man who wanted to go out with my girls. I asked specific questions and challenged these young men to a high standard of purity.

These experiences led to my book, Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date, which was published in 2007.  I received a lot of positive feedback from appreciative dads, but I also got something that I didn’t expect.  Quite a few parents contacted me to say, “I really appreciate the helpful advice for raising daughters, but we really need something to help our sons deal with aggressive girls in this sexually-saturated culture.”

Read this mother’s frustration:

I have a very outgoing, charming, attractive 15-year-old son.  I have literally been chasing the girls away from the door ever since the seventh grade. The phone calls, identified by caller ID, were left for the answering machine to answer. The aggressiveness and promiscuity of young girls nowadays is beyond words. Their dress is so alluring and inviting to a young man, what’s a guy to do? Moreover, what’s a mom to do?

Another mother wrote after hearing the FamilyLife Today® broadcast we did on my book:

After listening to yourInterviewing Your Daughter’s Date” program today, I’m wondering if you have been on a high school or junior high campus recently. While I agree with your points today, I have a seventh grade son. Let me tell you that the girls are relentless. So aggressive. He’s at a Christian school, and this is a problem. I can only imagine what it may be like elsewhere. Please address this issue.

Back when I was growing up, there were some girls who were called “boy crazy,” but very few were as forward and aggressive as what we’re seeing today.  Based on my conversation with parents, and what I’ve seen through research on the Internet, I think parents are facing some serious challenges.  We’re seeing more girls taking the initiative with guys at younger and younger ages, and aggressively attempting to lure them into sexual activity.  As I’ve done research on the issue, parents are telling me about groups of girls getting together and targeting young men.

Of course, I’m not talking about all young ladies.  But the situation has changed enough in recent years that we need to ask: How can we prepare our teenage sons for dealing with the attention and temptation being thrown at them by some sexually aggressive girls?

What in the world is happening?

What is going on in the hearts of some young girls that causes them to be so assertive?  I think there are several reasons for what we are seeing:

First, the culture is supporting it.  Movies, television shows, commercials, magazines, books …  they all glamorize sex and intimacy and the right of young women to go after whatever it is they think will make them happy.

Second, we have a whole generation of young men who are confused in their own sexual identity. Are they supposed to be sensitive or aggressive? Leaders or helpers?  Many young men today are not being taught how to treat a young lady with nobility, dignity, and respect. Many are growing up without a father or male figure to provide guidance.  As a result, some of these young men have no idea how they should expect to be treated by a real young lady.

Third, the breakdown of the family has resulted in a whole generation of daughters who have been abandoned. And in the absence of a healthy, emotional attachment to their fathers and mothers, they’re trying to fill their emotional gas tanks with the opposite sex.

Ruin Your Kid for Life

1. Give your kid everything he wants. Don’t deny what will truly make him happy. Overvalue money and things in his eyes.

2. Dress your child in designer clothes, no matter the cost. Show her that her outward appearance matters most of all.

3. Place your child’s needs over those of your spouse. If she cries, run to her immediately. If she interrupts, give her your full attention.

4. Entertain your child throughout the day. If she wants to play tea, put your plans aside. If she wants to watch her favorite movie for the hundredth time, forget your idea of going for a walk and getting some sunshine.

5. Plan your menu around your child’s desires. No child should have to eat something he doesn’t like. If, by chance, you want to make something other than macaroni and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, feel free to cook your own meal, just as long as you have time to fix what your child likes.

6. Sign your child up for as many extracurricular activities as she desires, even if it means giving up your evening plans on a regular basis. Don’t worry about trying to gather around the dinner table either. He can only be in the junior soccer league for so long, and you don’t want him to miss out.

7. Don’t discipline your child when she acts up. Everyone should learn to express herself in her own way. If she demands something, then applaud her efforts. At least you know that she will not be a pushover or a doormat in this world.

8. Don’t worry when your child fights with neighbor kids or even when he is a bully. Life is not fair, and someone always has to be the underdog. At least your child is learning to elbow his way to the top at a young age.

9. When your child has a disagreement with her teacher, always choose your child’s side. Don’t show up when the teacher wants to discuss your child’s problems. The teacher will want to take a course of disciplinary action and that’ll hurt your child’s feelings.

10. Don’t share your faith with your child. After all, you don’t want to offend. Let your child decide if she wants to hear Bible stories. And don’t pressure her to memorize Scripture verses. She might get disheartened if she doesn’t get it right the first time and you’ll ruin her self-esteem. More than that, you don’t want her to know there’s a God who runs the universe, makes the rules, and determines eternity. The thought is too hard, and your child might not understand. More than that, she won’t be self-dependent and strive to be a good person.

Parents and adult children

When you’re about to ask a friend or a colleague whether they’re going home for the holidays this week, think twice.

The holidays — so often tied to family and tangled in questions of going home — are not always so happy when you are estranged from a parent or child. They’re even more difficult when well-meaning types push you to bury the hatchet for the sake of peace in this theoretically joyous season.


Defining Estrangement

Kristina Scharp, an assistant professor at Utah State University and director of the Family Communication Lab there, has published extensively about parent-child estrangement. She defines estrangement as occurring when at least one family member voluntarily and intentionally distances himself or herself from another because of an ongoing negative relationship. And she notes that estrangement is complicated for the people experiencing it.

“Sometimes estrangement means a clean break, a fight and that’s it, but it can also be a chaotic disassociation, a relationship that’s on and off again over the years,” Scharp explained.

Estrangement is not simply needing to distance oneself from a parent and not coming home for the holidays one year, added Leah Bryant, an associate professor from DePaul University who teaches Family Communication and the Dark Side of Human Relationships.

“There’s a difference between wanting a hiatus or wanting space for awhile and deciding that your life would be better without them,” Bryant said.


How Estrangement Happens

Bryant notes that estrangement is not usually a mutual process, and the circumstances depend on who is doing the estranging.

“With adult children, it is often based on prolonged psychologically damaging interactions — mistreatment, abuse or just indifference — with their parents, and they finally have the fortitude to put some distance between themselves or sever that relationship,” Bryant said.

There is an idealized image of what families are like, and it’s a reminder now that the family is broken and they worry that maybe they themselves are broken.

— Professor Leah Bryant, DePaul University

Parents often don’t know why their child is estranged from them, though most people have heard stories about children of narcissistic moms who severed ties or “casually cruel” parents who severed for their own sanity and self- preservation as well as that of their loved ones. Scholars point out that this type of estrangement is sometimes healthy for both people in the relationship.

“A lot of parents have no idea why their grown children don’t talk to them anymore, and it’s devastating to them,” said Scharp. “It’s this weird thing where it feels terrible, but it’s probably also helpful because often, the other person (parent or child) might not be good for them.”

Although there are varied reasons cited for parents severing ties with their adult children, Bryant said much of the research cites parental disapproval of their child’s love interest or sexuality. In these cases, the estrangement can become mutual, she said.

Something you write strikes a chord

This post about a heartbreaking, pervasive problem struck a minor chord in a major way: It was the most viewed article in Next Avenue’s history, garnering more than 1.5 million views, 32,000 Facebook shares and 5,500 comments, and was printed over 3,100 times.

I want to share some of the poignant, funny, helpful and angry comments Next Avenue received (shortened for brevity in some instances), as well as a few suggestions readers offered for selling, donating or passing on parents’ possessions.

The Facebook comments mostly fell into one of five camps: “I so relate,” “This is so sad and difficult,” “I feel guilty about what I had to do,” “I won’t let this happen to my kids” and “You’re wrong! People want  these possessions.” A few plaintively seemed to ask if anyone wanted the particular items they needed to unload. For instance, Nina Mizrahi posted: Does anyone know of folks who collect old crystal set “radios?” Model Steam engines? Colleen Ferguson queried: Anyone want a 1980s soft-sided waterbed?

We will not leave a mountain of stuff for our daughter to deal with. Period.

— Deborah Laister Wagge

I So Relate

Many people said things like “This is spot on!” and “Living it.” Others, like these, got personal:

Merilee Campbell Bridgeman: My children have already told me they don’t want any of our antiques because they don’t care for ‘brown furniture.’ Drives me crazy that they prefer cheap furniture made of pressed sawdust and glue, but what’s a mom to do?

Julie Cranford: That’s why my mother’s beautiful and very valuable antique furniture is still in storage. Unfortunately, I brought home my mother’s, grandmother’s and even great grandmother’s silver, china and glassware. With three boys, I’m sure it will all end up in a dump somewhere. 😉

Annice Laws: My mother… amassed an unbelievable amount of stuff over her lifetime and always preached to me the “value” of this or that…. Well, I’ve learned that nothing is worth anything if no one wants it. My siblings and I kept the select items we were personally interested in, and for the rest of it I’ve held yard sales, put things on consignment, gone to pawn shops, posted on Craigslist and eBay, so on and so forth, but have never made more than a few dollars. I couldn’t even find buyers for her genuine gold and gem stone jewelry and had to liquidate it for pennies at one of those “we buy gold” places. I still have a storage unit full of stuff 20 years after her death because in her memory I can’t bring myself to just give it away.


This Is So Sad and Difficult

Connie Guerrera Maida: Purging my parent’s home of all their possessions was the most daunting task I ever had to do!!

Amy Kelley Warth: It is so overwhelming. Piles and piles of boxes in our basement that are completely random/disorganized… But 95 percent of it is “junk” — nobody wants it. So frustrating and stressful…Just when we got our house settled and had a minimalist lifestyle we were comfortable with, we inherited all this STUFF!

Ellen Schrader Stutts: Just went through this with my 91-year-old mother’s things. Gorgeous refinished furniture that went for fire sale prices at an estate sale… We ended up donating truckloads of stuff to the local shelter and thrift store. Heartbreaking.

Craig Unruh:. I know of three old men who were liquidating their collections and were sadly disappointed in the lack of interest. They collected French Art Posters, Royal Doulton Jugs, and rare Lladros. All their lives they saw the value of these things go up and up, and figured they were building an inflation-proof collection. So did a lot of other collectors of this stuff, but they all need to sell around the same time and not nearly as many buyers as there used to be.

Amy Stoopack Zipkin: In my experience, good luck involving a parent while they are still alive. Perhaps more productive to confer with sibling(s) to begin to establish realistic expectations for the inheritance.

Sofia Dakos: I am afraid we will destroy MANY items that will be sought after in future years and we will be moaning “why did I ever get rid of …”

Nancy Shire: What do you do with the hundreds of pictures of the grandkids taken when they were babies, of which there are probably dozens of duplicates? Who wants my Santa Claus collection? What about all the books? What about my daughter’s Girl Scout awards and sash — how can I throw them away? I guess they’ll all have the joy of plowing through everything when the time comes.