RUNNING AWAY FROM
Children who leave home are
registering a complaint or trying to persuade
their parents to listen to them. Sometimes this
drastic step is the only way children can see of
escaping a situation that has become
intolerable. Mostly, when children run away from
home, do so only once, do not go far or stay
away long, and come home of their own accord.
More girls than boys seemed to think about
WHY CHILDREN RUN AWAY
there been frequent
family fights, usually about your
these fights been over quite trivial issues? Sometimes children run
away because it seems the only way they can make
their feelings known. They run away because
their parents don’t really listen to them
or understand the way they feel, and they think
their views are not being heeded, or their
opinions respected. Some of the most common
reasons teenagers have for running away are
arguments about girlfriends or boyfriends, about
clothes, or about staying out late.
should sit down and talk. Keep as open a mind as possible;
listen to what they say, and do your best to
reach a compromise.
He of she is unlikely to
stay away for long. Most are home within 48
hours, only about two percent of runways stay
away for longer than 14 days.
Few runaways go far from
home. In fact, 98 percent stay in their own
area, mostly with friends or relatives. Very,
very few aim for the big cities.
Most runaways return home
of their own accord.
Check with their
friends. Often their best friend’s
home is the place they’ll choose to go.
Check with relatives,
especially any the child is close to.
If you cannot contact your
son or daughter, call the local police.
When your youngster does
return home, your first reaction is likely
to be tears of relief, your second may well be
anger. Do make sure, however, that your son or
daughter knows that if you’re upset or
angry, it’s because you love them and were
so worried about their safety.
Make them feel it was worth
coming home. Tell them you want to
understand why they felt they had to go. Listen
to them when they explain, and then –
together – see what can be done to change
Don’t be afraid to
seek outside help. Young people may talk
more easily to someone who is not directly
involved, especially if reassured that they can
talk in confidence. Professional counseling
might help them.
Could they have worries
they are afraid to tell you about? When a
child has a problem that he or she thinks you
wouldn’t understand, or that might make
you either hurt or angry, running away may seem
to be the simplest way out.
Quite often it is because
there has been trouble at school: children
who have been suspended, or who know there is a
letter on its way home, are often too scared to
face the music, so they just don’t go
Bullying or worries about
work or exams are other common causes.
Sometimes a teenager has worries about work or
exams are other common causes.
Sometimes a teenager has worries about sexual orientation or
Occasionally, they have had a brush with the law, or
gotten themselves into debt, or are anxious
about a drug or alcohol problem.
Children who are unhappy or
anxious nearly always show some change in
behavior. If your child seems more withdrawn or
irritable, or simply behaves worse than usual,
ask them if anything is wrong. If they deny that
they have a problem, reassure them that if
they’re ever in trouble you’ll
always be on their side and want to help them.
Make sure they understand that no problem is too
serious for them to share with you. If it seems
impossible to talk to them directly because you
meet a blank wall when you try, or because
tempers flare up on both sides, it’s worth
suggesting that they might find it easier to
talk to a sympathetic third party. Could a
family friend or relative whom they like and
trust talk to them? Professional counseling can
be helpful if your child agrees, and if
they’re reassured that what is discussed
will be confidential.
Is there a situation at
home that is impossible for your child to cope
running away is a desperate cry for help, or an
escape from a situation that is intolerable and
that seems to have no solution. The breakup of
the parents’ marriage, a complete
inability to get along with a parent or (more
often) a stepparent, emotional or physical or
sexual abuse: all are situations that the
teenager cannot expect the family on its own to
resolve. Although these problems are the most
serious, they are also the most difficult for
parents to acknowledge. A mother, for example,
may turn a blind eye to abuse of a child by her
partner, or refuse to listen if the child tries
to tell her, either because she feels powerless
to stop it, or because she feels that
recognizing it would threaten her own
relationship with the abusing partner.
Make time to listen to your child. Never
brush aside their worries when they try to talk
to you. If you are really worried about them
– perhaps because you think they seem very
withdrawn or unhappy, or you suspect that
they’re drinking too much or taking drugs
– tell them you’re worried, and ask
the about their feelings.
If you have a problem,
running away won’t solve it. The problem
will still be there when you go back. Running
away, unless you have money and somewhere safe
and comfortable to run to, can be unpleasant and
even dangerous. Whatever the problem is, it
helps to tell someone about it. Your parents are
the best people to talk to because they are the
people most likely to be able to change things.
If things have reached such a state that
you’re thinking about running away, then
you have to make your parents realize how you
feel. If you’re hurt or angry or
resentful, don’t try to bottle it up, but
tell them your real feelings. This doesn’t
mean attacking them for what they’ve said
or done. That seldom works. The chances are that
they think they behave quite reasonably. You
have to explain how their behavior makes you
feel because, very often, they just don’t
realize this. Even if you’ve done
something you think is bound to hurt or anger
them (like getting in trouble at school),
they’ll have to know sooner or later, and
often they are more understanding than you might
expect. Almost certainly they would rather try
to help you solve the problem than have you run
If for some reason you can’t talk
to your parents, tell someone else about the
problem. A grandparent or other relative
you’re close to is often the most helpful
person because they may be able to explain
things to your parents. Simply talking to a
friend, or calling a free telephone helpline can
make you feel a lot better. They may not be able
to solve the problem, but they can help you sort
out your feelings and decide what you can do to
change the situation that is making you unhappy.