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Why Teens Run Away

Many teens think about running away from home at some point.  This comes from dealing with many problems at home. Children who experience some of kind of mistreatment at home or think that they are not understood are likely candidates to run away.


One of the reasons why teens run away is family problems that can include fights over things like money, strict rules, they feel as though they are not understood or abusive family life such as domestic violence, emotional, physical or sexual abuse at home.


However teenagers may also run away to try to escape worries like having problems with school, being bullied, coming out as gay, dealing with an unplanned pregnancy, drug use peer pressure or even for mental health reasons.


Regardless of the reason running away is serious and can lead to more problems for the teenager.

It’s important to remember that teens who run away are not bad people. They have made a poor choice by deciding to run from their problems instead of facing and solving them.


Signs to Look For

There are many signs that such as changes in behaviours and rebellious behaviour that are usually an indication of trouble.  Risky behaviour, such as drugs, sex, crime or running away, are all possibilities when you observe substantial changes in eating or sleeping, mood swings, dropping grades, truancy, picking fights, and breaking rules. So those symptoms are always things that parents should be looking for as an indicator of a wide range of possible problems.


However,specifically related to running away, pay attention if your child ever threatens to run away, if they keep a set of clothes ready, or if they begin to accumulate money and possessions.


Prevention Tips

As much as parents would like to build a wall around their child, ultimately, every child will make his or her own choice but this is influenced by the relationship with parents and the environment in which the child lives.


Keeping a good relationship and open communication with your teen is the best strategy parents have to prevent their child from running away.  Yelling, screaming, threatening, using disrespectful language, and disagreeing with them without listening to their side are tactics that only make teens want to leave your home more.  (Please see our section on parenting tips by clicking here)


Try to actively listen to your child when they’re speaking and empathize with their point of view and the struggles they’re going through. Give your teen choices, not orders, to help instill responsibility and teach them problem solving skills. Help them to understand the rules so that they are more willing to follow them.


As parents, we are quick to notice a teen’s poor behavior, but be sure to look for and praise their good behavior as well.


As much as parents would like to build a wall around their child, ultimately, it is the teen’s choice whether or not to walk out the door. However, you can help them make an informed decision.


Most teens do not even realize and understand the consequences of running away.  Some of them may be listening to peers who might offer them shelter and that might sound like a good idea, but they do not understand how short lieved that would be.

Girls especially might find themselves so 'taken' by a male friend that they might think life would be 'ideal' with this person, but they cannot see the possible exploitation that is ahead of them.


If you are having problems reaching your child and you are in constant fights, please get help.  You and your child would benefit from speaking to a professional.  (Please see our psyshologist  and our counsellors by clicking on the links).


If Your Teen Runs Away

Notify the police and file a missing persons report. Keep records of all details of the investigation and stay in touch with authorities while your child is missing.  Get the name and badge number of the officer you speak with. Call back often and be cooperative with the officers. Alert family and friends immediately and especially your child's friends and ask for help and support.


Check for clues about your child’s whereabouts. Look at e-mail activity and cell phone bill if it is a bill phone or landline caller ID or other traching methods such as the GPS on cell phones. Search your teen’s room for anything that may give you a clue as to where she or he might have gone.


Visit your child’s school. Talk to the administration, security, teachers, or counselor for any information that might be useful.


When Your Teen Comes Home
When a child runs away, the time was undoubtedly filled with anxiety and her/his return is likely to be filled with joy and anger at the same time. However, both of you have to deal with the problems that made her/him run away and this will require patience, listening, compromise, communication, and building trust and respect again. Here are some tips:


  • Be happy she returned home. While parents are understandably very upset with a child that runs, their first words should be calm and welcoming. Many teens stay away from home because they are afraid of the initial confrontation with their parents when they return. Take a very long, deep breath and tell your teen that you are relieved to have him or her home, you love him/her, and that together you will solve any problems.

  • Do not start talking about the problems right away. Your emotions are too high at this point to get anywhere in a conversation. Go two separate directions until you both have gotten some rest.

  • Allow time to settle in. Most runaways have not had the luxury of consistent access to food or shelter while they were on the run. Your teen will likely need a shower, a meal, a clean set of clothes and/or a good night sleep. Get your child medical attention if necessary.

  • Make follow up phone calls. Let friends, family, and any other contacts know that your child has returned home. Call the police to let them know that he is no longer missing.

  • Talk with your teen. After you both have had time to calm down, sit down and talk with your teen. Tell them how you felt about them going and that they hurt you by leaving. Let them know that there isn’t a problem that you, together can’t solve. If they ever feel that running away might solve something, have them talk to you first, you could always offer other choices, so they can make a better decision.

  • Acknowledge that some problems take a lot of time and effort to improve. Make a commitment to finding a safe and reasonable resolution to the current problems and situations and get help from professionals as indicated above.

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