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Challenge: Kids and Technology

The "X plan" is not just for teens!

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An awesome dad recently wrote a blog about the X plan. The post went viral and was featured practically EVERYWHERE! You can check out the post HERE if you haven't seen it yet.

The X plan is simply a way for his children to text “X” to parents to let them know they need to call right away and say that they need their child home. No matter where he or she is the teen will be picked up and safely, no questions, no judgment. It's basically a safety net for kids in dangerous or tricky situations. So often, teenagers find themselves at a party that turns into something they are not ready for, or prepared to handle. It is naïve of parents to think that our kids are not going to be exposed to excessive alcohol, drugs or other dangerous situations. Just because we teach them how to handle themselves, peer pressure is such a powerful force. Our kids need to know that they have a way out, one that will not result in harsh punishment and judgment. They can then learn the tools they need for future situations. The older they get, the tougher it gets. By giving them a safe “out” we can then prepare them for the next time they find themselves similar situation.

I am a clinical therapist and work with teens and adults who have symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression. In my work I often meet with young adults who are well into there 20’s who still struggle with navigating situations involving peer pressure and substance abuse. Heck, even at 44 years old I felt the pull of peer pressure when a shot glass was put in my hand at a recent party. Although I smiled and said, no thank you, I wound up faking a sip, putting the glass on the table and walking away. Though I was able to do it, it's not so easy for a teenager who is trying to save face with his or her friends. Knowing they have a way out is everything!

The X plan is not only good for teens, but younger kids as well. My daughter and I have had a similar plan since she was only 9 years old. It started after a 6 year old’s birthday party for a boy in my son’s class. There were a few older kids (around 10 or 11) at the party. My daughter, who was 9, wound up in a bedroom with other kids looking up videos on YouTube. One video in particular was the story of Evil Elmo. It shows Elmo with a knife and gun, killing people. My daughter was frightened, uncomfortable and had no idea how to get out of the situation without being embarrassed, so she stayed in the room looking at inappropriately violent videos. After the party she had trouble sleeping and kept seeing images from the day in her head. When she told me about the situation the next day, we came up with a plan. We have a secret emoji she can text me from her iPod or phone if she finds herself in a scary or uncomfortable situation she needs to navigate. Our secret code lets me know I should come get her from the situation, no matter what. Now, as a teen, if she is with her friends and finds herself in a sticky situation where she doesn’t feel safe or comfortable, she can use me as the “bad guy” to help her get out using our secret code.

My hope is that both of my children will be comfortable choosing what's right over "fitting in". I have tried to raise them to be leaders who can stand up for themselves and confidently make good choices. Although I expect it, I know it may not always be so easy. That’s why we have our safety plan. If my children ask me something via text or phone and they use the code, I know to do the opposite of what was asked so I can take the blame for being the "buzz-kill."

At 12 my daughter used the emoji when she texted me she was at the movie theatre and another parent was driving her home. Without asking why, I told her I needed to pick her up and I was on my way. It don’t fault a 12 year old for not having the courage to tell a grown man that it isn’t safe to put 7 girls into 4 seats to drive home on a busy highway, I applauded her for having the sense to get in the car.

Whether it is the X plan or something similar, our children need to know that we are there for them as a safety net as they navigate challenges. That doesn't mean we don't teach them the skills to confidently navigate without us, we just provide the training wheels to do so until they can!

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