My child is threatening to run away from home, what do I do? Is my child serious, or is he/she just testing my reactions? How do I deal with runaway kids?
Each year, more than 1.5 million kids run away from home. Those runaway kids are at serious risk; dangers of a homeless life (such as drugs, alcohol, illnesses, prostitution, physical abuse and beatings, problems with police, death) and consequences kids face living on their own are usually far worse than the problems they ran away from.
The greatest tragedy is that the suffering of runaway kids and their parents could be avoided with education, counseling, patience, love and a will to overcome and resolve whatever problems a family may have.
Helpful parents’ guidelines on how to deal with runaway kids
-Listening. Recognize the best time and friendly atmosphere, and encourage kids to open up. Listen to what they have to say. Don’t judge them, ridicule them or try to force your opinions upon them – simply take time, show patience and listen. Focus on your child’s feelings rather than on your own.
-Avoid the heat of argument. Parents get scared of possible consequences from what their runaway kids might do. Too much emotion can lead to losing control during the conversation and hurtful things said in the heat of argument are later hard to overcome.
-You have the power of positive influence. Remember, no matter how it may seem to you, kids are deeply connected to their parents and you can still influence them in many ways to better the problematic situation. Try to stay calm. Pause and take time to figure out constructive ways to address the issues rather than say insulting things out of anger you will regret later.
-Making your child feel loved and wanted is crucial. It’s very dangerous if kids feel parents have given up on them. Out of despair, runaway kids might do dangerous things they otherwise never would.
-Finding a middle ground. Your child is developing and discovering her/his own identity. Parents should recognize that; if children never “get their way” and do things the way they want, it may leave them feeling powerless and desperate. This creates a build up of negative emotions and dangerous overreactions.
-Take threats of running away seriously, but don’t allow manipulation. Saying things like “You wouldn’t dare” or “You’ll be right back” are the worst things parents can do in dealing with runaway kids. Take time to create a loving, caring and understanding atmosphere. However, sometimes kids say they will run away just as leverage to get their way. Be patient and talk to them; try to figure out what is behind threats. Emphasize that it’s ok to have different opinions and you respect theirs. Explain that running away will not solve problems and the risks of homeless life are not worth it. No matter how serious problems are, there are always solutions that to lead a better and happier life.
-Seek help from others. Sometimes, while working to resolve problems, it may be productive to take some time apart. Your child can stay few days at a cousins or some other responsible person you both trust. Seek counseling – professionals will support overcoming problems with constructive advice.
My kid ran away from home – what do I do?
-Notify the police immediately.
-Try your best to remain calm. If you are calm, you will be more able to remember important things that will help you find your child (did he take money and clothes, how he acted before he left, what he said, did he leave a message, did he run away from you or to someone else, etc.)
-Ask your child’s friends for clues where he/she may be. In most cases, at least one friend has information.
-Practice an “open door” policy. Leave loving and friendly messages at friends and family, showing you are worried, miss your child and want him back safe and sound, no matter what he did. Never leave threatening messages.