Blogger and father of three Bert Fulks has a discreet way to get kids out of tough situations.
In a recent blog post, Fulks, who lives with his wife and three kids in West Virginia, introduced the “X-plan,” which serves as a “lifeline” for kids in uncomfortable scenarios.
The text code—his children messaging the letter “X” if something is making them uncomfortable—is followed by the parent calling the child and following this basic script:
“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, Danny tells his friends that something’s happened at home, someone is coming to get him, and he has to leave,” Fulks writes. “In short, 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.”
The condition? Fulks says the X-plan “comes with the agreement that we will pass no judgments and ask no questions,” which will ensure trust is built between parent and child. The “caveat” in this rule, though, is the expectation that real danger is reported since this is a “moral obligation.”
“Though in my mid-forties, I’m still in touch with that awkward boy who often felt trapped in the unpredictable currents of teenage experiences,” Fulks writes. “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.
“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.”
Folks says that he, like other parents, can lament the infiltration of technology in households, especially when texting occurs across bedrooms. But he continues, “Cell phones aren’t going away, so we need to find ways to use this technology to help our kids in any way we can.”
He urges other families to implement an X-plan in their own homes, and he drummed up more than 500 comments on the matter. Fulks says readers have shared both beautiful and tragic stories with him as a result.
One wrote, “I love this. I have two young boys and hope they never need to use it, but knowing they have this escape mechanism is very reassuring.”
Fulks says he is blown away by the response to the X-plan.
“The most incredible thing for me personally is I’ve heard from so many parents all over the world, who as a result, have started having conversations with their kids. To play a tiny part in that, I’m just truly humbled,” Fulks tells PEOPLE.