Last time, I shared Bert Fulks X-Plan; a tactic to help your teenager get out of an uncomfortable or dangerous situation, and still save face with their peers.
Here’s how X-Plan works: (in Fulks’ words)
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.
I (Ann) promised to share with you this time, some of the questions Bert received about using this tool, and his responses( abridged).
Doesn’t this encourage dishonesty?
Absolutely not. It presents an opportunity for you as a parent to teach your kids that they can be honest (something DID come up, and they DO have to leave), while learning that it’s okay to be guarded in what they reveal to others. They don’t owe anyone an explanation the next day, and if asked can give the honest answer, “It’s private, and I don’t want to talk about it.” Boom! Another chance for a social skill life-lesson from Mom and Dad.
Does this cripple a kid socially instead of teaching them to stand up to others?
I know plenty of adults who struggle to stand up to others. This plan simply gives your kid a safe way out as you continue to nurture that valuable skill.
What if this becomes habitual?
If you’re regularly rescuing your kid, hopefully, your family is having some conversations about that.
If you don’t talk about it or ask questions, how do they learn?
If you’re building a relationship of trust with your kids, they’ll probably be the ones to start the conversation. More importantly, most of these conversations need to take place on the FRONT-side of events. Ever taken a cruise? They all make you go through the safety briefing in case the boat sinks. They don’t wait until the ship’s on fire to start telling you about the lifeboats. Talk with them. Let your kids ask questions and give them frank answers.
If they’re not where they’re supposed to be, shouldn’t there be consequences?
Let’s be honest. A kid in fear of punishment is a lot less likely to reach out for help when the world comes at them. Admitting that they’re in over their heads is a pretty big life-lesson all by itself. However, don’t get so caught up in all of the details. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all scheme. Every parent, every kid, and every situation is unique. What it might look like in your family could be totally different from mine—and that’s okay.
I urge you to use some form of our X-plan in your home. If you honor it, your kids will thank you for it. You never know when something so simple could be the difference between your kid laughing with you at the dinner table or spending six months in a recovery center … or (God forbid) something far worse.
At the end of the day, however, the most important thing is that you’re having some open, honest discussions with your kids. Keep building a relationship of trust. This isn’t the same world we grew up in. It’s not like sneaking a beer at Billy’s house anymore. Our kids face things on a daily basis that—given one bad decision—can be fatal. Don’t believe me? I’ve been to funerals for great kids from awesome families.
Friends, it’s a dangerous world. And our kids are out in it everyday. Prayers for strength and compassion to the parents out there as we all try to figure out this whole parenting gig—it never gets easy.
I 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.
Another question that came from Bert’s blog that I thought helpful:
My oldest son is 16 and just got his license. How can we implement an x plan if he drives to a destination?
This response was from another blog reader, not Fulks himself: “I think you could simply amend it to say “Something has happened, and we need you come home as soon as possible. We will meet you at the house in X minutes.” I suppose he will have to take home any kids he brought with him or assure they get rides. Maybe the kids who rode with him would appreciate the chance to leave, too.”
Again….please pass it on!
Ann Finnie is a Scituate townie, holistic healing facilitator, and spiritual guide, who works with individuals and groups with the intention of inspiring healing, hope, love, empowerment, and faith. You can find more of Ann’s writing on her blog at www.footprintsholistic.com, and you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.