As a parent, we never stop worrying about our children. The day they’re born we count all 10 fingers and all 10 toes, and then we count them over again. It’s in our nature to protect the little humans we gave life to.
Of course, that cycle continues as they grow up. Rather than counting 10 fingers and 10 toes, we wind up counting how many hours we lose sleep when they’re out with friends, having sleepovers or getting their driver’s license. Then we count again—the number of gray hairs that somehow multiply on our heads everyday. (I just stop counting them when I get to 10.)
The teen years are a special time. They’re full of dually proud and heartbreaking moments, watching our little babies grow up, make decisions, use their voice. But they’re also a time when things are completely unknown. Our kids are making decisions that year after year, we have less influence in, and it’s inevitable that they’ll end up in a sticky situation from time to time.
Bert Fulks knows the feeling well.
The minister, who shares his own experiences and parental insight on his blog, spends an hour each week with young people—teenagers—who are going through recovery programs for addiction.
“I’m always humbled and honored to get this time with these beautiful young souls that have been so incredibly assaulted by a world they have yet to understand.”
Bert says that working with the teens is not only for their benefit, but his as well.
“This also comes with the bittersweet knowledge that these kids still have a fighting chance while several of my friends have already had to bury their own children.”
He recently asked the group of teens, “How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stuck around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?”
All of the teens raised their hands. “Every single one of them.”
“In the spirit of transparency…I get it. Though in my mid-40s, I’m still in touch with that awkward boy who often felt trapped in the unpredictable currents of teenage experiences. 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.”
Of course as parents, we all understand peer pressure, and remember the days when our world revolved around our social lives. Bert remembers them too, but he realized something that we’ve all been missing: Peer pressure wasn’t really about our peers…it was about our parents.
“As an adult, that now seems silly, but it was my reality at the time. “Peer pressure” was a frivolous term for an often silent, but very real thing; and I certainly couldn’t call my parents and ask them to rescue me. I wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place. 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.”
His realization is a perfect depiction of what many of us adults experienced, so there’s no reason why today’s teens would feel any different. A major part of growing up is learning how to navigate uncomfortable situations.
And so began, the X-Plan.