One in five youth run away from home before age 18. Some as young as age 10. Is your teen a runaway risk?
Imagine your son or daughter, niece or nephew in a classroom full of children. Is the child that you love among the 20 percent who will someday run away? If not yours, then whose? — National Runaway Safeline
Between 1.6 and 2.8 million youth run away each year and almost half of these runaways leave home during the warmer months of the year.
Why do teens run away? Understanding the reasons why teens run away can warn you if your child is a runaway risk. It can help you take steps to prevent your teen from running away.
The main reason seems to be neglect or violence at home. But, there are other reasons too — trouble in school, arguments with family, being bullied, problems that arise due to sexual orientation, the influence of friends, the lure of a predator. Whatever the reason, young people who run away either don’t feel loved and accepted or believe their parents are too controlling.
Listen to what runaway teens say:
My household was so horrible, living with a raving alcoholic and abusive father. My mother just pretended everything was okay. I couldn’t take it anymore.
I have no history of sexual or physical abuse. I’m just an everyday, average, upper-middle class girl but I left home because all my parents wanted to do was control me.
I was tired of dealing with my mother’s emotional, mental and physical abuse. You can only fight for so long before you’re tired of fighting and just want to get away from it all.
I ran away with my boyfriend who is 27. The problem is that I am only 16, but I wanted to be with him and I was sick of all the fighting in my house.
I didn’t run away. I got kicked out after my parents found out I was gay.
I started chatting with a guy on the Internet and we really connected. He said he would pay for a plane ticket so we could be together.
I was forced to move across the country when my parents divorced. I hate my stepfather and I have no friends at my new school.
No one believed me when I told about my uncle having sex with me. They called me a liar so I ran away.
My parents don’t understand me. Everything I say is wrong. Everything I do is bad. When I try to do what they want, they tell me it’s not good enough. I just can’t get it right.
I had to run away. I love my parents but there are things about me that my parents don’t know. They think I’m perfect.
Help Your Teen Resolve Problems Without Running Away
James Lehman, creator of Total Transformation, suggests:
. . . the main reason why kids run away is because they don’t have good problem-solving skills. Running away is an “either/or” kind of solution; it’s a product of black-and-white thinking. Kids run away because they don’t want to face something, and that includes emotions they don’t want to deal with. The adolescent who runs away has run out of problem-solving skills. And leaving home — along with everything that is overwhelming them — seems to solve their immediate problems.
What’s going on in your child’s life? What’s going on at school? What’s going on in the home and within the family? A problem must first be recognized, named, and admitted before it can be addressed.
A problem can’t be solved if it’s kept secret. A teen needs an adult who he/she trusts to listen with an open heart and who will be supportive in dealing with the problem — ideally it will be the parents but it could also be a relative, teacher, coach, or counselor.
The teen needs to recognize that there are choices in dealing with problems and, with every choice, there are consequences — positive, negative, immediate, long-term.
Having good problem-solving skills is a mark of maturity. An emotionally healthy home environment promotes this growth.
Children feel safe, secure, accepted and loved when communication is open, honest and respectful, when boundaries are clear-cut and consistent, and when the family supports each other as a team.
Let your teen know problems or difficulties can be resolved without running away. Let your teen know that he/she is loved — no matter what.