Teen Runaway Causes, Signs, Prevention, and What to Do if They Flee
by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Family Writer
About Families Magazine, August 2017
An alarming one in seven kids between the ages of 10 and 18 will runaway from home, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Not to mention, it’s a spur of the moment decision for more than seventy percent of runaways, says the National Runaway Safeline. As a result, parents may see little clue their child might go missing.
August is National Runaway Prevention Month. So be aware of the causes and signs to watch for. Take preventative measures, and know what to do if your child does flee.
Teen Runaway Causes
There are numerous teen runaway causes. Many suffer from verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Even when the situation isn’t as severe, often runaways feel neglected and lack financial and emotional support at home. They may also be in frequent conflict with their families. Some kids might have drug or alcohol addiction problems, or they’re trying to escape the addictions of their own parents. Other teen runaway causes include teen pregnancy and mental illness. Sexual orientation also often leads teens to runaway because they’re rejected by their families. Not to mention, foster kids frequently run back to their own families. Finally, some kids run away simply because they don’t like their parents’ rules.
Find out more about teen runaway causes at kidshealth.org
Youth Runaway Signs
Warning signs that a kid is planning to flee aren’t always present. Even when there are signs, most of these behaviors can be attributed to so many causes it’s difficult to predict a child is considering running away. But there are some telltale signs. The most obvious is when a teen threatens to do so. While it could be an attempt at manipulation in the heat of an argument, it should be treated as a serious warning sign. Your child may also start hoarding money, and valuable items might disappear from the house. You might notice your child keeps a bag or backpack filled with clothes. Your teen may also become more secretive or might start staying away from home as much as possible.
The most important thing you can do is provide your child acceptance and unconditional love. Your child should feel she’s loved the same whether receiving straight ‘A’s or failing. A gay or
pregnant teen especially needs acceptance from her family. Also, if your teen has a drug addiction, make sure he understands while you hate the addiction, you love him. Show you care by asking your child how she’s doing or how things are going on a daily basis. This also gives your child an opportunity to open up.
This leads into another preventive measure, communication. Make sure your child knows he can talk to you about whatever is going on. Teach him how to talk calmly and express himself clearly – and always respond in kind. Ask your teen how you can improve the situation enough so he’ll want to stay.
If your child has actually threatened to runaway, first ask what’s going on and why she wants to leave, and try to address her concerns. Then discuss the risks involved with running away and homelessness: the long-term impact of not finishing school; drug or alcohol problems that often develop; the high potential for falling victim to human trafficking; or committing crimes as a means of survival and ending up in jail or prison.
What to Do if Your Child Runs Away
Call your local police, and make a report immediately.
Make reports with your sheriff and state police as well as police stations in neighboring communities.
Contact everyone your child knows, including their friends, the parents of their friends, relatives, coworkers, classmates, and school staff.
Try to access your child’s social media accounts, school locker, and thoroughly search their room for possible clues.
Contact their cell phone provider to see who they’ve recently called.
If your teen has a debit or credit card, contact the bank for details of any transactions.
Hire a private investigator.
Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST and the National Runaway Safeline at 800-RUN-AWAY
Kimberly Blaker is a family content writer and parenting writer.