Blogger and father of three Bert Fulks has a discreet way to get kids out of tough situations
She’s got the dress. He’s got the suit. They’ve got the date. They’ve got the destination.
But have you had the PST? Yup, the Prom Safety Talk.
Probably. But was it a half-hearted “Be careful” type of thing? Quite possibly. We all tend to hope for the best and avoid communicating concern to our kids, despite deep worries, such as those expressed in a just-released Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) poll that found parents ranked prom season as the time of year they are most anxious about their teens drinking alcohol.
Don’t hold back, say the experts. Your worries are completely valid.
And you must have a plan.
“This is night that has been planned for months, down to the most finite detail. Not least of which is how to sneak, hide, and invent new ways to party so the adults won’t catch them,” says Joani Geltman, a Boston-area family counselor and author of A Survival Guide To Parenting Teens, Talking To Your Kids About Sexting, Drinking, Drugs, and Other Things That Freak You Out.
“A few years ago it was water bottles,” she adds, in which prom-goers hid vodka and other clear alcoholic drinks. “Teens, feigning dehydration, brought in their innocent looking water bottles into the prom party. No need to even hide their drinking, it was ‘just water.’ It didn’t take long for the chaperones to figure out that ploy as kids vomited all over the dance floor, and passed out.”
Then the troubling trend moved on to pot brownies. “These brownies may have come from mom’s oven, but not mom’s recipe,” Geltman says, adding that kids were throwing up again and were sent by ambulance to a local hospital.
To promote safety, Geltman has come up with a list of six strategies for parents and kids, including auto and sex assault safety and what to say in that all-important pre-prom talk.
JOANI GELTMAN’S PLAN: A parenting expert’s six-step prom survival guide
Geltman also suggests making an “escape plan” using a texted code word or letter to alert parents to come and extract the child from an of unsafe situation.
A variation, the X-Plan, developed by West Virginia minister, writer and public speaker Bert Fulks, went viral on the social media in February. In the plan, Fulks — who also counsels young people going through addiction recovery — a family agrees that when a teen texts a single “X,” that parents will get in touch with him or her and, if necessary, pick the teen up.
“Let’s say that my youngest, Danny, gets dropped off at a party,” he says. “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 reason for such a short communication, Fulk says, is to avoid any peer pressure and embarrassment the teen may have in having longer contacts with his parents, either by text or phone.
After the “X” text is sent, Fulk says, “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:
‘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.’
At that point, Fulk adds, Danny tells his friends that something’s happened at home, someone is coming to get him, and he has to leave.
“In short,” Fulk says, “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.”
Matthew Diebel’s daughter, Lydia, is going to her senior prom in mid-June.
Sophomore Tyler Hemp, a special needs student, received a surprise recently when senior Rachel Sauder gave him a promposal at Stuarts Draft High School.
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