Teenagers run away from home very often in America. There are many reasons for this: they feel a need to escape, they have worries and often school problems (poor grades, no friends, bullying, etc.,) possible drug and alcohol problems, they may be pregnant, have mixed feelings about their sexual preferences and possible abuse at home (either emotional or physical.)
They feel that they cannot get anything right and that it is much easier to run away rather than face their problems. In reality, the fact is that they have very poor problem-solving skills. This, of course, could be linked to their specific problem or problems. There is also the belief that all their problems will be solved by running away, which is not true.
There are two separate categories of runaway teens. One is the Episodic, and the other is the Chronic. In the case of the Episodic, it is usually a specific incident that triggers this decision; it could be poor grades or fear that their parents will disapprove of their behavior. In the case of the Chronic, the teen has realized that they can manipulate their parents by threatening to run away.
It will be somewhat more complex to remedy the Chronic runaway situation. For sure, a therapist will need to be brought in to work with the family since the teenager knows that through their threats, they can cause fear in the parent and therefore manipulate the situation.
Recent statistics on teenage runaways are the following: 1.6 to 2.8 million runaways each year; conflicts with a parent account for 47%; 50% are thrown out of the home, and 80% are abused. The tragedy is that they are very welcomed prey for sex traffickers and child molesters.
What to do when a teenager runs away?
The following is a plan to follow if your teenager runs away:
- Search your home for the missing teen
- Report the missing teen to the police immediately (DO NOT WAIT!)
- Place your child on The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) missing persons list.
- Phone everyone who you and your child know and ask for help
- Call your teens phone. Please know all phones have GPS and you can track their movement and location.
- Call The National Runaway Switchboard (1 800 786 2929) and leave a recorded message for your child
- Call The Childrens Clearing House (1 800 426 5678) and register your child’s name.
How to communicate with your teenage daughter.
When you communicate with your teenager, you must understand that you have unconditional love for her and care a great deal about her. Your child needs reassurances of love and concern that can provide comfort. You must not blame, scold or put any guilt trip on the child; tactfully ask if she is being hurt, threatened, or in danger. Do not even entertain the idea of any punishment. If your teen doesn’t want to talk, tell them that it’s OK and you will be able to later or tomorrow.
Plan to see a family therapist. Visits should be arranged individually and some with the whole family. This will help the therapist how guide you through your problems. Your teenager must understand that you are there to protect and help them. Do some serious self-investigation, questioning how you can positively change your behavior. It would help if you worked on ensuring that your home feels like a safe place for all the family.
What should a teenage daughter’s parents do once they see signs of her wanting to run away.
When parents learn that their child is surely planning an escape, they are unsure what to do. Parents should ideally have a sense of compassion for her.
The best scenario here would be to have some serious communication between the two parties so that everything is discussed as to why this situation has come about. This would surely be a form of relief for both parties. If the parents were to bring this situation out into the open, it would break the ice and establish meaningful communication. However, the parent being more mature may have to be the one to bring up the subject.
Once the situation is confronted and discussed out in the open with sincerity, there is a good possibility that the decision to run away will be resolved. When the daughter may refuse to talk, the parents should not force her to talk but instead wait until later or the next day. If this situation continues, the family must seek professional help from a therapist.
It is of the greatest importance to understand that neither the parent nor the teenager is a bad person. Situations such as these are common, and the best solution is not to blame either party but to do the best to create a situation of understanding.