Ben Fulks is a dad and youth minister who regularly works with teenagers struggling with addiction in Huntington, West Virginia.
According to Scary Mommy, he recently asked a room full of recovering teens if they'd ever found themselves in uncomfortable situations, and couldn't find a way to get out.
He wrote in his blog post that their reaction changed the way that he interacts with his own children:
“They all raised their hands. Every single one of them.”
Fulks thought back to his own adolescent days and remembered what prompted him to drink alcohol for the first time:
“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.”
He wanted to try to break the cycle of peer pressure for his own family.
That's when he developed what he calls the “X-Plan” for his teenage children to contact him — or other family members — when stuck in uncomfortable situations.
For example, if his son, Danny, is dropped off at a party and then wants to leave, all Danny has to do is text the letter “X” to any member of the family.
The family member will then call Danny and follow a simple script:
“Hello?” “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.”
Danny can then remove himself from the social situation without feeling embarrassed for leaving:
“He has the freedom to protect himself while continuing to grow and learn to navigate his world.”
The most important part of the X-Plan is that the family member who comes to the rescue cannot ask any questions or pass judgment. Fulks admits this is often easier said than done:
“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.”
Though, Fulks writes, there is one caveat to his rule: Danny (or any other kid) must speak up if they know another friend is in trouble.
Fulks said the plan has been very successful in improving trust and communication in his own home, and encourages other parents to share the message far and wide:
“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.”
Now that Fulk's blog post has been viewed more than one million times, parents and teachers on social media are praising the dad for encouraging open communication at home:
Some people mentioned that they had similar family codes growing up and found them to be particularly useful:
Most parents agreed that they'd prefer to withhold judgment and trust their kids, rather than lose them:
Fulks hopes that by encouraging kids and parents to reach out sooner, families can prevent drug addiction or jail time and see fewer hands raised at the next recovery meeting.