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RUNNING AWAY FROM HOME

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 running away.

WHY CHILDREN RUN AWAY

  • Running away may be the first indication you have that something is wrong, but often you’ll have some idea of what might have made your child leave home – if you’re honest enough to recognize it.

  • Listed below are three of the main causes of running away: if you spot the danger signals in time, you may be able to stop your son or daughter from resorting to such a drastic solution to their problems.


  • Have there been frequent family fights, usually about your youngster’s behavior?

  • Have 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.

  • You 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.


IF YOUR CHILD RUNS AWAY

  • 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.


What you should do:

  • 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 things.

  • 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 home.

  • 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 about pregnancy.

  • 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 with?
    Sometimes 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 away.

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.

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