X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan)

(As seen on The Today Show, Good Housekeeping, HerViewFromHome, ScaryMommy, The Huffington Post, Mamamia, MomsEveryday, and numerous social and news media outlets. UPDATED – 3/3/2017)

Friends, as most of you know, I get to spend an hour each week with a group of young people going through addiction recovery.  Yes.  Young people.  I’m talking teenagers who are locked away for at least six months as they learn to overcome their addictions.  I’m always humbled and honored to get this time with these beautiful young souls that have been so incredibly assaulted by a world they have yet to understand.  This also comes with the bittersweet knowledge that these kids still have a fighting chance while several of my friends have already had to bury their own children.

Recently I asked these kids 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?”

They all raised their hands.

Every single one of them.

In the spirit of transparency … I get it.  Though in my mid-forties, I’m still in touch with that awkward boy who often felt trapped in the unpredictable currents of teenage experiences.  I can’t count the times sex, drugs, and alcohol came rushing into my young world; I wasn’t ready for any of it, but I didn’t know how to escape and, at the same time, not castrate myself socially.  I still recall my first time drinking beer at a friend’s house in junior high school—I hated it, but I felt cornered.  As an adult, that now seems silly, but it was my reality at the time.  “Peer pressure” was a frivolous term for an often silent, but very real thing; and I certainly couldn’t call my parents and ask them to rescue me.  I wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place.  As a teen, forcing down alcohol seemed a whole lot easier than offering myself up for punishment, endless nagging and interrogation, and the potential end of freedom as I knew it.

X-Plan

xplan-text1-2For these reasons, we now have something called the “X-plan” in our family.  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:

“Hello?”

“Danny, 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.”

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 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.

xplan-text1However, 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.)

For many of us parents, we lament the intrusion of technology into our relationships.  I hate seeing people sit down to dinner together and then proceed to stare into their phones.  It drives me nuts when my kids text me from another room in our house.  However, cell phones aren’t going away, so we need to find ways to use this technology to help our kids in any way we can.

Since first publishing this piece, I’ve seen an incredible amount of discussion about the pros and cons. Here are some of the questions folks have had:

Doesn’t this encourage dishonesty?

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.” 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 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.

#xplan

Blessings, friends.

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716 thoughts on “X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan)

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  4. Hello Mr. Fuchs. I recently came upon this incredible “X-plan” that you have developed to protect our children. As a therapist here in Los Angeles who works with couples, families, teenagers and their parents, I blog on a weekly basis.

    After reading your blog on the X-Plan, I would like to know if I could give a brief introduction to your X-Plan blog and then post a link to your original article on your site.

    Thank you so very much for coming up with this idea!

    Dr. Gary Brown
    Los Angeles

    Liked by 1 person

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  8. This is a wonderful idea we have been going over things like this with my older children for a couple of years now. Now we are working on getting them phones and having them have a job to help keep there phone up and going to teach responsibility altogether so that they know that then need to keep their phones loaded with minutes so that if they get stuck in a situation like that they can get ahold of us..

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  11. UHHH SORRY TO BREAK IT TO YOU GUYS … but it seems to have profoundly escaped your attention…. the reason allll those kids put their hands up when asked if they were ever in a situation that they couldn’t get out of so stayed is because they were all in that exact same situation WITH YOUUUU
    …. LOOK WHY ARE YOU HOLDING MEETINGS WITH A BUNCH OF KIDS YOU ARE SO SAY TRYING TO HELP … if you cant figure out that u are a total stranger to those kids and if the people they loved hurt them YOU SURE AS FUCK WOULD … i know you mean well but seriously stop… you shouldn’t be working with them if you have had zero experience in the the exact same life city hometown school that they’ve been in … their human bodies will never let you understand what they have been through and you will never be able to help them understand if you’ve never experienced it… im not debating here im not suggesting that you have to go through one thing im telling you straight you have to go through ALLLLLL OF IT TO be able to truly understand what they need ..
    READ YOUR WORDS AS THOUGH YOU ARE A STRANGER TO THEM READ THEM ALL PROPERLY BECAUSE ALL I CAN SEE IS THAT AS MUCH AS YOU THINK YOURE HELPING YOUVE JUST STEREOTYPED THEM AS POOR KIDS AND HAVE THEM RELIVE SOME HORRORS THEY NEVER DESERVED TO REMEMBER.. you ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO TALK ABOUT IT OUR BODIES PROTECT US THANKS … WE AINT IDIOTS WE JUST NEEDED GUIDANCE ( A QUICK RELEVANT SENTENCE )NOT TO BE WATCHED FOR REACTIONS NOT TO BE UNDERSTOOD OR TRY TO FORGIVE AND FORGET ITS NOT THEIR JOBS TO REMEMBER OR FIX WHAT YOU THINK SHOULD BE FIXED JUST INCASE THEY MAY GET PISSY AND SMASH YOUR CAR WINDOWS ONE DAY …
    think about it like this… if you are offended then you are not the person you are thinking you are…. if you believe that a traumatic child hood experience will probably turn people into an abuser then you are not the person who should be caring for them if you say or hear things like the reason people stay in domestically violent relationships is because they love the person THEN YOU SERIOUSLY SHOULD NOT HAVE ANYTHING ELSE TO DO WITH THE KIDS
    PSYCHOLOGY Is BASED ON PURE OBSERVATION OF PEOPL THEY HAVE NEVER SEEN NOR HAVE THEY EVER Put THEMSELVES INTENTIONALLY IN A SIMILAR PERSPECTIVE AS ONE OF THOSE KIDS
    UNTILL YOU CAN SEE THIS
    YOU HAVE LITERALLY FORCED ME TO RENDER ALLL YOUR HARD WORK BRAGGING ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU CARE FOR THOSE POOR KIDS.. A TOTAL AND UTTER waste of TIME
    WELL DONE FOR ALL OF YOUR WORK AND THANK YOUUU FOR CONTRIBUTING TO THE MESS I HAVE TO CLEAR UP… 😠
    if you want GENUINE HELP WITH THIS I WILL ANSWER EVERYTHING THAT YOU WILL EVER NEED TO HELP PROPERLY BUT DONOT WASTE MY TIME WITH POINTLESS INDIGNATION BECAUSE YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO CONVINCE ME THAT I DONT KNOW EXACTLY WHAT WILL HAPPEN HOW TO AT IT AND HOW LONG IT CAN TAKE TO REPAIR WHEN REALLY LOW IF SAID PROPERLY

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    • Were there any sentences in that post, or did they just copy and paste random phrases and then capitalize half of them? Can anyone figure out what they’re raving about?

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    • Ceri, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone at this blog is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow sweetheart, you make absolutely no sense and maybe what you need is someone like this person. Whether he’s righ or wrong, he cares and that may be more than any of those kids may have ever had; someone that actually cared!

      Like

    • Dislike! Didn’t even finish reading it! You should obviously just keep your opinions to yourself. In case you haven’t learned, if you have nothing good to say then do not say anything at all!!

      Like

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  16. Hello Mr Fulks.
    I really like your idea for the X-plan and even though my kids are way to young it will definitely be useful in the future.
    I was wondering if I could translate the main parts of this post in Greek and post it, along with an active link, to my (non-profit) blog. Thanks in advance

    Antonia

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  19. Great plan and I see how it could remove the pressures/balance of saying no or giving in to peer pressure which is VERY real!
    Only part that I didn’t see or read was how do you know where to “get them” if they’re not where they’re supposed to be? It didn’t reveal specifics in the example text, but assuming they must have provided location somehow…

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    • When they text you with x you call them and tell them there is a problem and to come home right away. If they are drunk then you pick them up and get car later.

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    • The key then is the phone call: you’ve asked them to come home asap for an indeterminate reason, so they have an excuse to excuse themselves and leave.

      Like

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  26. OMG, how genius is this? Not only does it bring family members closer through this cooperation process and team work, it also aids kids avoid awkward or unpleasant situations. Thanks for the fantastic idea!

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  27. I think this is a fantastic idea which we have adopted with my oldest. As she asked questions you could see a bit of relief in her face to know that I will be there if she needs me. Thanks again!

    Like

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