How To Deal With A Runaway Teenager

It is never easy when our teenage children want to run away, and it is even worse when they do. Despite the fear and guilt that you may feel, one thing you should never feel is being alone.

How To Deal With A Runaway Teenager

It is said that around 7 percent of young people run away from home each year – that is around 1.5 million adolescents and children every single year. However, there is a good chance that the number is higher due to not every parent reporting it.

However, that isn’t because they care. Some parents have no idea that their teenage son or daughter has run away from home, and just think they are with a friend.

Even so, teenagers have a lot of risk when they runaway from home, from homelessness and sexual explotation, to drug abuse and engagining in some form of illegal activity.

If your child is experiencing runaway behavior – perhaps they have run away before – or they have decided to leave home without saying a word and you have already spoken to the police, then read on to find out how to deal with a runaway teenager.

Is There A Way To Deal With A Teenager Who Is A Runaway?

How To Deal With A Runaway Teenager

If your child runs away quite a lot, or threatens to do so, you will want to do something about it. If you don’t, they will keep repeating the behavior of either running away, or trying to manipulate you.

One of the ways you can help is by making the environment at home comfortable for them. A place where they can be honest with you and themselves.

You need to make sure that you allow them to speak about their own opinions and problems without reprimanding them for being honest, or criticizing them at every opportunity.

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When discussing their reasons for wanting to leave home, let them speak. Having respect for your teenager and allowing them to be open can create an equal atmosphere. Maybe it is something really simple why they keep running away?

When a teenager wants to run away, always remember that they are acting on feelings of anger, and this is often caused by being unhappy and confused – however, this can also make your child very vulnerable.

At a time when they are feeling calmer, you need to make conversation with them and find out what can help to make their home life better. Always be specific too, as generalizations will not help the matter.

Why Do Teenagers Run Away From Home?

How To Deal With A Runaway Teenager

Most teenagers who run away from home are likely asking for help or seeking attention. Often they might feel that everyone is against them, including the world. If they think that home is a hostile environment too, they may decide to run away.

There is a chance that a teen who announces they are going to run away actually means they want their parents to listen, and to stop them – and even to help. Whilst it would be easier for them to be direct and honest, most teenagers are not.

Instead they lash out and act silly, but even so, you should never egg them on. You will make them feel like you don’t care about their wellbeing or how they feel.

Instead, you should show them that you care, no matter what. Once they return, avoid becoming angry. Instead, start a conversation, and if needed, look for a therapist who can help.

Ways To Recognize A Chronic Runaway Teenager

How To Deal With A Runaway Teenager

Whilst a teenage child can run away, in most cases, those who are chronic runaways are the teens who spend their time threatening to leave and run away. They do this by manipulating the ones they love like their parents and guardians.

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Sometimes they decide to run away to another relative’s house, or to their friends. Basically somebody who they think is more sympathetic to their feelings, whether that is right or not.

However, there is also the fact that a lot of teens run away due to lack of care at home or in their community. Some examples are:

  • Being the target of bullies during school hours
  • Either sexual, physical or emotional abuse in the home
  • Having a parent(s) who doesn’t accept either their sexuality or gender
  • Living in poverty
  • Some form of substance addiction, whether that is the teen or parent
  • Mental health issues

Runaway Teenagers With A Mental Health Issue

How To Deal With A Runaway Teenager

Some teenage runaways decide to run away because of a mental health condition that they have. For example, if they never actually receive some form of treatment, they can often feel guilty of the pressure that they put on their family.

They often feel this due to hearing their parents argue about them, or their siblings feeling upset. Perhaps their parents have begun to complain about the way they behave?

It isn’t uncommon for a teenager with bipolar disorder to run away whilst experiencing a manic episode. This is when they often cannot think realistically, perhaps their own thoughts are delusional and all over the place.

Sometimes teenagers who have been diagnosed with either oppositional defiant or conduct disorder can run away in order to make their parents feel upset or perhaps even to avoid other important issues.

What To Do The Moment Your Teenage Child Has Run Away From Home

How To Deal With A Runaway Teenager

If your child runs away, you have a few resources to contact. These are:

Always inform family and friends, and do as much as you can to find them if time goes on. This can be calling up your local radio station and hanging up posters in your neighborhood.

Final Thoughts On Runaway Teenagers

How To Deal With A Runaway Teenager

Having a runaway teenager can make you feel angry, upset and alone. However, there are ways to deal with the situation, and to hopefully help your teenager feel safe and comfortable within the home.

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If your child has run away, always do as much as you can to find them. Once found, they may also realize the trouble you went to to get them back.


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Suzy Prichard
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