It’s estimated that at any time, there are between 1 million and 3 million teenagers in the United States that are classified as either runaways or homeless. Reasons to run away from home are plenty. Consequences of running away are dire. It is important for parents to understand the causes and effects of running away from home.
It’s a staggering number that often goes unnoticed in the richest country in the world, but one that needs to be addressed more frequently and with much more fervor by several facets of society.
Through the work of law enforcement and private investigation firms, many of these children are returned home to their families every year. But unless the root cause of why they left in the first place is addressed, these kinds of issues will continue happening over and over again.
”it’s not typical for teenagers to run away more than once growing up, we’ve seen parents reach out to us multiple times for help finding their son or daughter,” says Henry Mota, a licensed private detective in Texas.
What to do when your child threatens to run away?
It is important that you first understand why runaway issues arise in the first place.
There are several reasons why teenagers run away from home, many resulting from the advent of social media platforms like Twitter and Snapchat that allow online predators to lure children away from their circles of support. However, at an impressionable age like teenage, it is difficult to understand the consequences of running away.
Other reasons for runaway behavior include physical and sexual abuse in the home, drug use, mental instability or illness and criminal activity.
The best way for parents to deal with teenage runaway issues is really to tackle the problem head-on before it gets to the point where the child is actively seeking ways to physically leave home.
But what can parents do, when it seems they have a child that is hell-bent on taking off the moment their back is turned? According to child behaviorists and online support groups like Empowering Parents there are things that any parent can try before it gets to the point where the police and/or private investigative services need to be called.
Communicate with your child
You may think that communication is already strong between you and your child, but you’d be surprised how many parents have views that differ from their children. Take every chance you can to check in with your child, even if it’s simply asking how their day was or what they would like to eat for dinner.
Knock on their bedroom door when you walk by, so they know you’re there if there’s anything they’d like to talk about. And make sure you’re available when the opportunity presents itself, regardless of what you may be doing. If they want to talk, drop everything and have that conversation.
Teach problem-solving skills
One of the most important skills you can give your child is how to solve problems on their own. After all, you’re not going to be there forever to make their decisions, nor will they want you to be.
If your child has a problem, encourage them to think about ways that the problem can be solved and/or dealt with. Running away is never the solution, so sit down together and brainstorm ways to deal with the situation at hand in a rational and constructive way.
And when the problem is resolved, be sure to offer up as much encouragement as you can muster. Give positive feedback and encourage more of this type of decision making moving forward.
Create a positive atmosphere
You know that you love your child unconditionally, but does your son or daughter know that?
Do you tell them every day that you love them and that they’re the best thing that ever happened to you?
Even if teenagers say they don’t want to hear this from their parents on a regular basis, deep down it’s important that they hear it and know in their heart that it’s true.
Make sure your child knows that you’re going to love them no matter what he or she has done in the past, or even in the future. Encourage them to come to you with problems, no matter how big or how small.
They think that will fracture the relationship to the point of no repair
A lot of children run away from home because they’re dealing with issues that they’re either too embarrassed or too ashamed to talk with their parents about, and they think that will fracture the relationship to the point of no repair.
Be sure they know that this is not the case and that they can come to you with anything. And when they tell you the news that you may not want to hear, take a deep breath and then deal with it together with your child.
We’re not saying that the tips above will solve all of your familial issues or runaway issues, but implementing this type of behavior can certainly go a long way if you’re dealing with a teenager who’s tackling things they are not used to tackling. Just be there for them and really listen to what’s on their mind. Hopefully, the rest will take care of itself.