As parents, we do everything that we can to protect our children. If your teen threatens to run away or runs away, it can be frightening. Not knowing where they are or whether they are safe can set off a range of emotions and concerns. Whether this is the first time or the fifth time, a teen who runs away is not something that you should take lightly.
A runaway teen is at a higher risk of developing several psychological and physical issues. It also comes with an increased risk of being exposed to dangerous situations and predatory adults.
If your teen has run away or has a history of running away, there are two things to keep in mind.
1. A runaway teen is not a reflection of your parenting abilities.
2. Your teenager is likely in crisis if he’s run away. He is not a bad person, and there are strategic
ways to approach his behavior.
First thing to do if your troubled teen runs away
The first thing to do if your troubled teen son runs away is to evaluate the situation to determine if he did run away. You can do this by asking a few questions and observing your surroundings.
Has your teen left home, taken a few belongings with him, and not let you know where he is? If he has obviously packed essential belongings, it is a good clue that he may have ran away.
What do you need to do? How can you track him down?
Before you jump right to a conclusion though (especially if this is the first time this is happening), here are some steps you can follow to help you find your teen son:
- Search the house to make sure that your troubled teen isn’t hiding in the house somewhere. It may seem silly, but quite often, teens hide in the basement or attic so that they can cool down a bit when tensions are high.
- Contact the police as soon as you have verified that your teen is not inside your home. While television shows have many of us believe that we need to wait up to 24 hours when someone is missing, this is not the case in most areas. The sooner that you report your teen as missing, the sooner you are likely to be reunited.
- Call your teen’s friends, their parents, your friends, family members, and neighbors who have familiarity with your teen. Many of them could be able to offer ideas as to where he has gone.
- If your teenager has a phone, you may be able to track him using the phone’s GPS feature. You may also be able to access the numbers he has recently called to determine if he has been in recent contact with friends who may know where he is.
- Searching his computer history and other devices may feel like an invasion of his privacy. However, when he is missing, it’s important to explore any avenue that could result in him coming home safely.
- Making and passing out flyers with pictures of your teen can prove helpful. The police department will likely have several suggestions for you to ensure that you are doing all you can to get your teen back home.
Why do teenagers run away from home?
Your teen running away may be something that completely blindsides your family. Or it may be behavior that you’ve come to expect. There are so many reasons that might be fueling your teen’s drive to run away.
More than 1.5 million teenagers run away every year. Some reports indicate that the numbers could be double that. This is an alarming number of teenagers running away and potentially finding themselves in serious and dangerous situations.
Any time that someone under the age of eighteen runs away, this is a strong indicator that there is something serious at home and in the family environment that needs to be addressed. While the reasons can vary greatly and be completely unrelated to anything you’re aware of right now, there are typically three main reasons that teens leave:
1. Abuse at the hands of a parent or another adult in their lives. It can also sometimes be due to abuse at the hands of a sibling. It’s essential to make the point that the abuse is not always physical. Verbal abuse can be just as damaging to a teen struggling.
2. To a troubled teen, a breakdown in communication between parents and teen can feel unresolvable and much more serious than reality.
3. Struggling with problems at school, with friends, or with a partner can prove near impossible for a teen without coping skills to face.
Some teens run away just to get a breather from how overwhelming their life feels at the moment. Regardless of the reason, the important point is that those who do run away and spend even just a day on the streets are putting themselves in danger.
When your teen is back home
The relief that you feel once your teen is home is sure to be palpable. But now what? What should your family do to make sure they don’t run away?
How can you keep everyone in your family safe?
The urge to keep your teen as close to you as possible is likely going to be very strong, but you and your troubled teen are likely going to be feeling high levels of emotional stress. Give him a little bit of space to decompress in the comfort and safety of his bedroom.
Be honest and open with your conversations. Your conversations should not be to dole out punishments and lecture your teen. Your goal should be to get to an understanding of what led to him running away.
Be empathetic and kind. Even though you may be angry, furious, and more, but remember that your teen is struggling in his own ways. He needs support and to know he is loved without condition.
Take the time to go over some of the household rules and expectations of every member of the household. A lack of communication is quite often the main reason that teens feel the urge to run away.
While it can feel overwhelming, stressful, and lonely, you don’t need to go through this alone. Get help from professionals. If your teen has run away several times, this indicates that the strategies you’ve been using are not working. Get to the true root of the issues by reaching out to mental health professionals.
Running away is a serious issue that places your troubled teen in danger. Don’t hesitate to get the right focused treatment for your teen.
Learn more about the type of resources that are available to help your family find their way back to stability and safety. At Help Your Teen Now, we can connect you with the resources that can prove beneficial. A residential treatment center offers focused therapies and treatments in a structured and safe environment.