This morning i have read two separate articles on missing teens. Are these children runaways or something much worse? What leads a teen to runaway?
No teen is immune to the pressures of growing up or dealing with issues at home. Some teens may become too overwhelmed with problems and may feel like running away is their only way to escape. Many run away because they’re afraid of punishments, or they think their home has too many rules and limits. However, other teens run because of a serious issue in their lives. If you fear your child is at risk of running away, open the lines of communication. Teen help starts with communication.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, teens cite feeling their parents don’t love them or their parents are too strict as the two most common reasons why they run away. And according to the National Runaway Switchboard, an organization that takes calls and helps kids who have run away or those thinking of running away, “Every day between 1.3 and 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the streets of America. One out of every seven children will run away from home before the age of eighteen.”
Though most teen runaways return after forty-eight hours to two weeks and move from one friend’s house to another, others remain on the streets and never return home. Some teens go to a friend’s house or to a relative they can trust and make up stories about their home life. This is a common practice with teens. A parent may suffer pain and humiliation, which is compounded by the need to get their teen help.
Other teenagers who feel they must run farther from home may end up in shelters or, in the worst possible scenario, living on the street. Preferably, a troubled teen will end up at a shelter, as they help provide food and clothing. Some shelters also provide counseling, and some help teens find better living arrangements. Teens who end up homeless on the street may band together with others in their same situation to help each other survive.
Prevention is Key – First and foremost, the most important and effective way to stop your teen from running away is to maintain an open and stable relationship with your teen. If you notice any problems they might be having, talk to them before the situation gets out of control. Other tips to improve your relationship with your teen:
Pay attention. Don’t pretend to listen to them.
Give respect. Acknowledge and support your child’s struggle to grow to maturity.
Don’t label. Useless labels will only confuse the real issues you wish to address.
Create responsibility. Give your teen choices, not orders. Help her understand the consequences of her actions. When punishment needs to be administered, ask what they think would be appropriate. Make sure the punishment fits the “crime” and is consistent with other actions you’ve taken.
Administer positive praise. Try to praise your teen instead of criticizing him or her.
Stop hassling. Asking questions often shuts off information. Let him or her volunteer information.
Don’t always give the answers. Encourage independence and discuss open options to help them develop their problem-solving skills.
Use teamwork. Work together whenever possible. Identify the problem and find mutually agreeable solutions.
Effective communication is essential. If you are a parent or caregiver in need of assistance, there are local and national programs available. These programs are intended to build life skills, increase knowledge about runaway resources and prevention, educate parents and teens about alternatives to running away, and encourage youth to access and seek help from trusted community members.