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Does Your Kid Have an Exit Plan?

A family exit plan could help your child get out of an uncomfortable situation.

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Your tween is at a friend’s house after school with a couple older kids when they decide to sneak beers from the fridge. She just wants to leave! Your sixth-grader is at a co-ed party when the activities move from an Xbox tournament to seven minutes in heaven. He’s not really ready. In uncomfortable situations, your child may simply be looking for a way to leave without being teased or labeled. Creating an established family exit plan gets them out without embarrassment. Here’s how it works:

  1. Your child finds himself in an uncomfortable situation.
  2. He texts you (or another trusted adult or older sibling) a prearranged word or letter that indicates he wants to leave. Use something the whole family understands as an exit request, like the letter X or Z, or an easily identified, but not too common, word.
  3. You respond with a simple text saying: “Something’s come up at home. I need to pick you up.” The response reveals no details about your child’s request, so he can depart without embarrassment.
  4. Pick him up, and let him say as much or as little as he is comfortable sharing. Create a safe, trusted space by agreeing in advance that there will be a “no questions asked” policy about the situation. The one exception should be if someone is in a dangerous or potentially threatening situation, then he needs to spill.

Be sure to explain and practice the plan in advance so everyone understands it and is ready to mobilize if the exit signal is sent.

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