What You Should Do If Your Kid Runs Away
Probably, one of the worst and the scariest things that any parent can imagine is to find out that their child has gone missing. In a critical situation, when kids run away from home, their parents experience very strong emotions – from anguish to fear and anger. However, it’s crucial to try to get feelings under control, stay as self-collected and calm as possible and do all the necessary steps to help your child return home. Besides, it is no less important for the parents to understand why do kids run away to be able to prevent the incidents and also to know how to act correctly when the child comes back home.
The statistics on runaway kids is alarming:
- 1 in 7 children aged 10 to 18 runs away from home;
- 8 million children run away every year in the US;
- 1 to 3 million runaway and homeless children are living on the streets in the US at the moment;
- 50% of runaway teens named a conflict with their parent or a guardian as the main reason to escape from home;
- 43% of those who ran away reported cases of physical abuse to be the primary reason forcing them to leave home.
It is apparent that teenagers belong to the group of the biggest risk, while younger kids happen to run away less often. The reasons why teens run away can vary, but the most common the following.
Why do kids run away?
- Abuse (physical or sexual violence) in the family;
- Parents being too controlling and demanding on their children which results in a child feeling lack of personal freedom and constantly fighting with parents because of this;
- Parents divorcing or separating; one of the parents getting a new partner – a new stepparent for a child;
- Birth of a sibling. As a result, an elder child gets less attention and care;
- Death of a family member;
- Financial problems in family;
- Parents abusing drugs or alcohol;
- Children having problems at school (getting bad marks or dropping out of school);
- Children being bullied by peers;
- Taking substances (alcohol/drugs).
In the most complicated cases as much as 50% of adolescents, leading street life or living in shelters, report that either their parents told them to go away from home, or knew they were going to leave but didn’t stop them and didn’t care.
Most often, kids decide to run away from home to escape some serious problems in their family. Many kids may try to run away after a big fight. Being very emotional and not thinking rationally enough, they cannot find another way to solve the conflict but to flee. Generally, when these kids return home, they don’t try to run away again, being scared and having seen all the hardships of the street life, even if the escape lasted only for a short period of time.
Some children, however, run away from home chronically; they also may threaten and blackmail their parents saying they will run from home every time a conflict starts.
Here’s what you should do if your kid runs away:
- If your child comes in contact with you (calls or messages) soon after he or she escapes, try to be calm while talking to them but also show your concern. Reassure them that the problem can be solved, that you worry and care about them no matter what. Also, try to avoid any reproaches or more critics, ask short straight questions like “Where are you?”, “Are you safe?”, “Can you talk freely?”, “Do you want me to come and take you back home?”
- If the child doesn’t contact you, firstly collect as much information as possible – check which clothes and things are missing to be able to describe more details of the kid’s looks. Look trough their social networks and messages if possible: often, children may share some crucial information about their plans to escape with their friends. For this purpose, a parental monitoring app can be of great service, letting parents not only look for the relevant info on the child’s social networks and texts but also to pinpoint their current location through the GPS.
- Call the child’s friends and classmates to check if the kid is at some of their places, talk to the friends’ parents as well.
- Check your kid’s favorite places. Often children may go somewhere they feel calmer and can have some time alone.
- As soon as you are sure that your child did run away, contact the police and provide them with as detailed info as possible.
- Spread the news that your child is missing among as many people as possible.
Cases of children running away from their homes are, sadly, not that rare. If you stay self-collected and act quickly, you will most surely find your kid soon enough and convince them to come home. To avoid such a bitter incident, always be attentive to your child, show them that you understand their worries and feelings, but you always love and care for them no matter what.
Try to become their good friend. However, you should remember that all children who reach the teen age, may go through a rebellion phase, and therefore overreact even to minor things.