Every parent worries about the possibility their teenager may find themselves in a situation where they are they are uncomfortable or dangerous. They may not always feel they have a way out that they can exercise and save face with their peers.
Bert Fulks, a minister in West Virginia who shares insights and parenting tips on his blog and also works with kids who are in addiction treatment, created an innovative tool he calls the “X-Plan.” He gives his permission and also his encouragement to share this tool with anyone you know who might benefit. I share it with you and invite you to pass it on, also.
Fulks, a dad of three, learns a lot from his work with kids who are overcoming addictions and is quick to apply these lessons to his parenting.
So, when every single kid in his support group admitted they often stayed in uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations just because they didn’t have an easy way out, he realized something: kids need escape routes. Bert remembered being caught in these types of situations as a teen himself, and so he decided to implement a clever and compassionate parenting tactic with his kids. Bert gave them a secret text message that they could send him, no questions asked, if they needed to get out of a bad situation fast.
Fulks calls this tool the “X-Plan:” “This simple, but powerful tool is a lifeline that our kids are free to use at any time. Here’s how it works:
Let’s say that my youngest, Danny, gets dropped off at a party. If anything about the situation makes him uncomfortable, all he has to do is text the letter “X” to any of us (his mother, me, his older brother or sister). The one who receives the text has a very basic script to follow. Within a few minutes, they call Danny’s phone. When he answers, the conversation goes like this:
“Danny, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”
“I’ll tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”
At that point, Danny tells his friends that something’s happened at home, someone is coming to get him, and he has to leave.
In short, Danny knows he has a way out; at the same time, there’s no pressure on him to open himself to any social ridicule. He has the freedom to protect himself while continuing to grow and learn to navigate his world.
This tool is one of the most loving things we’ve ever given him, and it offers him a sense of security and confidence in a world that tends to beat our young people into submission.
However, there’s one critical component to the X-plan: Once he’s been extracted from the trenches, Danny knows that he can tell us as much or as little as he wants … but it’s completely up to him. The X-plan comes with the agreement that we will pass no judgments and ask no questions (even if he is 10 miles away from where he’s supposed to be). This can be a hard thing for some parents (admit it, some of us are complete control-freaks); but I promise it might not only save them, but it will go a long way in building trust between you and your kid.
(One caveat here is that Danny knows if someone is in danger, he has a moral obligation to speak up for their protection, no matter what it may cost him personally. That’s part of the lesson we try to teach our kids—we are our brother’s keeper, and sometimes we have to stand for those too weak to stand for themselves. Beyond that, he doesn’t have to say a word to us. Ever.)
I (Bert) beg you to share this piece. Talk about it with your kids. If this somehow gives just one kid a way out of a bad situation, we can all feel privileged to have been a part of that.
My (Ann) space limitations here keep me from sharing this week, but next time, I’ll share with you some of the questions that Bert has been asked, about the pros and cons of this plan. And, I’ll share his responses. Personally, I think this is an insightful plan. I used a similar one when my kids were teens, and my daughter did use our plan a couple of times, allowing her to get out of uncomfortable situations, take care of her safety, and save face with her peers. I think being a teenager is tougher now than ever. I for one would never want to go back to those years. Let’s help them, and teach them as best we can. Pass it on!