I have to admit, I read a whole lot of parenting articles and advice. Lots of it is educational and really interesting. But most of it washes over me and is forgotten before my head has hit the pillow that night. (Except for the articles on School Mum of course!)
But when I read Bert Fulks’ blog post on giving your kids a way out (#xplan) it stayed with me. Not only did it stay with me, but I have since established my very own X-plan with my teenage daughter and recommended it to all my friends with kids that age.
Let me explain. Bert Fulks is a teacher and lay minister who spends a lot of time with children in addiction recovery. Recently he asked a group of teens who are in recovery a simple question: “How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stuck around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?”
Every single kid in the group raised their hand.
And don’t we all have memories as teens of situations we found ourselves in that made us uncomfortable? I know I do. There was an older boy that would offer to drive my friend and me home, but he drove like an absolute maniac. I didn’t want to be the one to say I was scared to get in a car with him but I was. But I went in the car anyway. And there were parties with booze and drugs that turned uncomfortable, and gatherings that ended up with some sort of criminal conduct. If I could have found a way out of those situations without being a big wuss, I would have.
Lucky for me nothing seriously terrible ever happened. But not all kids are that fortunate.
That’s why Burt came up with a safety plan for his family he calls X Plan. This plan gives his kids an out, no matter what kind of situation they’re in or who they’re with – even if they’re not where they told their parents they’d be. A way to get out of there while still saving face and not having their friends think they’re totally lame.
If they’re at a party and they get a whiff that it’s about to get ugly. If there are drugs going around that make them uncomfortable. If someone is driving who makes them feel unsafe.
Here’s the plan:
All the child has to do is text a simple ‘X’ to one of their parents. The parent will wait five minutes, then call the child and tell them something has happened and they’re going to come and collect them immediately.
Even if the child asks what has happened (which they should if they want to sound authentic to their friends), the parent will simply say, “I’ll explain when I get there. Be ready in five minutes. I’m on my way.”
The parent then turns up and takes the child out of the uncomfortable situation, while the child has saved face.
But Fulks stresses there is one component to this plan that is absolutely critical to its success: once the child has been removed from the situation, they have to know they can tell their parents as much or as little about what was happening as they are comfortable with. The parents must pass no judgement and impose no questions or conditions – otherwise the plan won’t work and the child may still not feel comfortable texting for help.
Fulks admits it can be tough for many parents to agree to this condition, but it’s this condition that establishes the level of trust required by the child.
The one caveat, of course, is that the child must agree to tell a parent if someone is in danger.
Since learning of this plan, my teenage daughter has now been briefed on this plan and has enthusiastically agreed. I have told her I won’t ask questions, and now I’m working on my resolve to keep my word.