The X-Plan: A Way Out of Trouble for Your Teen

By Tracey Dowdy

How many times have you found yourself in a situation that made you uncomfortable and all you wanted to do was escape? Especially as a child or teen, did you ever wish there was an escape hatch or an “abort mission” signal?

I remember picking my youngest daughter up from a party in the middle of the evening. Things had taken a turn and she no longer felt safe. She called me, I picked her up, and on the way home we had a good – although uncomfortable – conversation.

However, there may be times your child doesn’t feel safe but either isn’t sure of how to get out of the situation or doesn’t know how to get out without having to explain why. If you remember anything about peer pressure at all, you know it’s a miserable position for anyone to be in. No one wants to be “that kid”.

Bert Fulks is a father of three and an educator at Empty Stone Ministry, working with teens struggling with addiction. He has come up with a simple, effective and ingenious tool to help our kids when they find themselves in a sticky situation – the X Plan. Instead of calling or sending a long text asking for help, kids simply text the letter “X” to whoever could potentially pick them up. Once the text is received, the person who received follows a very simple plan. They call the child and follow this script:

“Hi honey, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”
“What happened?”
“I’ll tell you when I get there.  Be ready to leave in five minutes.  I’m on my way.”

All your child has to do is tell his friends something has come up and he has to leave. It’s as simple as that.

To those who suggest it’s teaching kids to be dishonest, Fulks’ says, “Absolutely not. It actually 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.” “

One essential element to the plan is that it’s up to the child whether or not they want to discuss what made them want to leave. Fulks admits that’s a tough one. Our obvious reaction to having to rescue our child is to want to know exactly what happened, but it can build a sense of trust and security if we leave the “what happened” unasked. Think about it. Do you want your child to know they can call for help, no questions asked, or do you want them to stay in an unsafe environment while they debate the weight of the consequences at home against the consequences of staying?

One final yet critical element to the plan is to teach your child that if anyone is in danger they have a moral obligation to speak up. That’s one of the moral lessons here – we have a responsibility to help both friends and strangers if they are at risk, even if it means getting in trouble ourselves.

Fulks’ X Plan has resonated with many parents and his original blog post has been shared multiple times by The Today Show, The Huffington Post, ScaryMommy, and several others.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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