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Prevention Presents: Ways to Say No (X-Plan)

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Ways to Say No (X-Plan)
Deirdre Washington, M.Ed, OCPSI
Manager, Prevention Education

At some point in every young person’s life they will be confronted with peer pressure. Pressure to cheat on a test or assignment or pressure to drink, smoke or try drugs. Often, teens feel trapped or unable to leave a situation they are uncomfortable in, so they stay.

There are many ways to equip your teen with skills and confidence to handle these situations, but having open conversations and clear expectations is how to start. One parent’s creative way to help his teens get out of a situation is an X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out.

Essentially, an X-plan is a way for your teen to safely leave a situation without ridicule from their peers. “Here’s how it works: Let’s say that my youngest gets dropped off at a party. 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 one who receives the text has a very basic script to follow... Within a few minutes, they call his phone. At that point, he tells his friends that something’s happened at home, someone is coming to get him, and he has to leave.”

Harbor’s School Age Prevention team also teaches kids how to handle these situations. In Project ALERT we practice “role rehearsals” not “role plays,” and this is something you can easily rehearse at home with your children. Their ability to navigate these experiences is invaluable, and it’s definitely NOT something to play with. As much as we hope there won’t be, there will come a time when they will need to use these skills.

Here are a few methods that we teach:
• Simply say “no”
• Give a reason or excuse - “I can’t, I’ve got practice in the morning.”
• Leave the scene
• Stand up to pressure
• Offer an alternative – “Let’s get something to eat instead. I’m starving!”
• Avoid the scene altogether


Navigating adolescence is difficult. Talk to your teens about peer pressure, ways to get out of a situation, and develop an X-plan that works for your family.

For more tips on helping your kids make healthy decisions for themselves visit:



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Seniors & Safe Driving 
Carrie Dowling, OCPC, LCDCIII, CTTS
Assistant Manager, Prevention Education



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