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Give your kids the tools they need to get out of bad situations

You've got good kids. They've got strong moral compasses. When confronted with tough situations, like being offered a drink or a joint, they'll "just say no," right?

It may not be that easy. Peer pressure can be strong. Even adults too often do things they regret later because they don't want to be mocked or criticized. Preteens and teens are even more vulnerable.

Parents can give their kids tools that can help them get out of these situations when they aren't around to help them. You may have heard of the "X-plan" or something similar. You and your child agree on a letter, word or phrase they can text you to let you know that they need you to pick them up if a party is getting out of hand without letting others know what they're doing.

However, what if your child is in a situation where they can't wait for Mom or Dad to show up? What if their friends are watching porn or have found the answers to tomorrow's test online? What if they're planning to "get back" at someone they don't like by vandalizing their new car?

Parents can work with their kids to have some "escape phrases" handy. When kids (or any of us) have something prepared to say, it's easier not to be caught tongue-tied and give in because you don't know how to get out of a situation.

It's fine to have escape phrases that blame their mean old parents, coaches or someone else. They can't smoke a joint or cigarette because their parents would smell it on them and ground them. If they got caught cheating, their coach would throw them off the baseball team, AND their parents would ground them.

Of course, it's also important for kids to learn to assert their own beliefs. They should develop the confidence to say they simply don't want to drink, vape or shoplift, for example.

If your child is always having to use escape phrases and an "X-plan," you and they may want to look at who they're hanging around with and why. However, even groups of basically good kids can engage in unwise, dangerous and even illegal behavior. If your child finds themselves in trouble with the law -- for underage drinking and DUI, for example -- it's essential to take the matter seriously and not let them deal with it alone.