Educator and Inspirational Speaker, Bert Fulks, spends an hour each week with a group of young people going through an addiction recovery program.
“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 have a fighting chance while several of my friends have already had to bury their own children,” Fulks said.
As part of the program, Fulks asked each participant one simple question:
“How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stick around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?”
Every single hand shot up in the air as if the teens were begging for him to know they don’t want to be in the position that they’re in. The path to getting here wasn’t entirely their fault.
Fulks declared,“in the spirit of transparency, I get it.”
He explains that he’s still in touch with the boy he once was, feeling stuck in unexpected teenage experiences, even thru his mid-forties.
“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; 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.”
It is for those reasons that Fulks developed the “X-plan” for his own family, a simple but powerful tool that his kids are free to use anytime.
This is how it works:
Fulks describes a scenario in which he’s dropping his son, Danny, off at a pool party with friends. In the event that anything made him uncomfortable during the party, all Danny needs to do is text the letter “X” to anyone in their family — mother, father, siblings. The one who receives the text follows a basic script when calling Danny’s phone. 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.”
This is when Danny tells his friends that someone is coming to get him because something has happened at home and he needs to leave.
This plan allows Danny to know he has a way out, yet at the same time, there’s no pressure put on him or risk for social ridicule. He is given the resource to protect himself while still continuing to learn and grow as a young adult trying to navigate his way through the 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,” said Fulks.
There is, however, one critical element in the X-plan: Once he’s been removed from the situation, Danny knows that he is free to explain as much or as little as he feels comfortable with. This is completely up to him. An agreement in the X-plan states that no one will pass judgment or ask questions. This can be difficult for some parents, but Fulks believes that this might not only save them but go a long way in building a trusting relationship between parent and child.
According to Fulks, “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.”
As parents, we try to monitor just how much we allow technology to infiltrate our relationships with our children. Sitting down to dinner to have everyone staring at their phones is not exactly quality time spent together. However, the reality is that cell phones aren’t going away, which is why we need to find ways to use the technology to benefit our children in every way possible.
Fulks says he’s seen an incredible amount of discussion surrounding the pros and cons to this X-plan. Here are some of these questions and the answers Fulks provided:
Does X-Plan 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.”
Fulks urges families to implement some form of the X-plan, as your kids will eventually thank you for it. Something as simple as this plan could make a big difference between having a child who is laughing and happy at the dinner table with their family, or spending six months or more in a recovery center.
The most important thing is for parents to have an open and honest discussion with their kids to ensure you are fostering and continuing to build a relationship based on trust. The world has changed so much with technology and kids face things daily that can be detrimental to their health and well being. As a mother of two children, ages 11 and 12, wellness advocate, Amy Jones, plans on implementing the X-plan in her home. “It’s so simple, and it gives my kids something to think about”, Amy said, “Not only do I hope it makes them feel safe, but that the idea creates an awareness in their minds about situations that could arise where they may no longer feel comfortable in that space”.
Our children are out there daily, experiencing things, meeting people, and it’s a wonderful, yet dangerous world.
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Source: huffingtonpost.com / excerpted from bertfulks.com