Running away from home – reasons why children do it

According to United States statistics, 1 in 7 kids (age 10 to 18 yrs) will run away from home. Running away from home is serious problem – at this point, it’s estimated that 1 to 3 million kids are homeless.

There are many reasons why kids run away from home. Most runaway kids are teenagers, but it’s not rare that kids threaten to leave their homes as early as 7 or 8 years old. Children and young adults are vulnerable to overreacting emotionally because they lack experience to resolve problems, and running away from home may seem like the only solution. Sometimes their parents don’t know how or don’t want to deal with situation so, unfortunately, after running away from home, kids find themselves often in many serious problems associated with life on the street.

Most runaway kids feel unloved or unwanted at home

Following are some reasons behind running away from home:

-Physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse. This is the most common reason for running away from home. While many kids threaten to leave home, the ones who go a step further and actually do run away are usually abused kids from families where some form of abuse lasts for years.

-Parents or siblings using alcohol or drugs. Children feel overwhelmed with parents under the influence (who are usually very abusive) and don’t know how to resolve the situation so they flee from it.

-Divorce or loss of family member. Statistics indicate kids who live with stepfathers or stepmothers are at more risk of running away from home.

-Parents enforcing too much restriction and discipline. A lack of healthy parent-child communication and an abundance of strict rules and punishments may be a trigger to running away from home. As they grow and develop, kids discover their own independence. When parents fail to recognize it, kids may try to live on their own, even though they aren’t ready for it.

-Being disappointed with parents, trying to punish them. Disagreements between kids and parents are frequent, and kids often have problems communicating and negotiating things they feel strongly about. If they don’t feel understood or feel disappointed with parents some other way, sometimes they will try to make parents realize their mistakes by running away from home.

-Fear from being in trouble after doing something wrong. It can be a small thing (braking something expensive or valuable, a bad grade, fight in school, etc.) or a more serious problem (stealing, drug or alcohol use, crime of some sort, gangs, problems with authorities).  Children are not aware problems have solutions and there are positive ways of dealing with their situations so they overreact out of fear and run away from perceived consequences.

-Being bullied. If kids who are being bullied don’t get help, sometimes they will try to run away from everyone to avoid stress and suffering caused by bullies.

Working together to fix the problems

If kids are talking about running away from home, it’s a good indicator something is troubling them. Parents shouldn’t dismiss this warning sign no matter how young the child is.

Talk to your child and try to address the issues. If you need additional help, seek guidance from family counselor. The most important thing and a base for any further mutual work to fix problems is to make your child feel like an accepted and loved family member.


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