And Preventing Teenage Runaways
By: Michael G.
May 21, 2014
One of the greatest fears that parents can
experience comes when they discover that their child is missing or has run away. Parents will experience a range of emotions. The stress of the
situation and the different ways in which parents, family, friends and
police respond can reach crisis proportions and create further crisis
within a family.
The Difference Between
a Runaway Child and a Missing Child
There is a difference between a child who
has runaway and child that is missing. A runaway has left home or
supervised environment. They usually run to escape or avoid something, or they
somewhere to find or get something.
A missing child might be lost, abducted, injured or held against their
will by others. A runway is not necessarily missing. A runaway in not the same as a child who "sneaks"
out at night to be with friends.
Motivations of a
To avoid an
emotional experience or consequence that they are expecting in some future
encounter or situation.
To escape a recurrent
or ongoing unpleasant, painful or difficult experience in their life.
To avoid the
loss of activities, relationships or friendships that are considered
important or worthwhile.
To be with
others people who are supportive, encouraging and active.
To be with
others or in places that are distractions from other problems in their
To change or
stop what they are doing or about to do.
Problems that Increase
the Risk of a Runaway
Warning Signs of a
communicate result in arguments, raised voices, interruptions, name
calling, hurt feelings and failure to reach an acceptable agreement.
The child has
a network of friends who are largely unsupervised, oppositional,
defiant, involved with drugs and other antisocial behaviors.
pattern of impulsive, irrational and emotionally abusive behavior by
either the parent(s) or teenager.
Helps Prevent Runaways
The following is
a brief list of suggestions that can help reduce the risk of a runaway.
Keep in mind that these are only suggestions than may help. If the risk is
high, and your relationship is extremely poor, including the level of
trust, then these suggestions may not help. Obtain the support and advice
of a qualified profession if you feel there is a risk that your child may
your child to run away because you think they may not.
sarcasm or a negative attitude that demonstrates that you do not
respect your teenager
your voice or yell - especially when your teenager is raising their
voice or yelling.
Stay calm and
quiet, make eye contact, and don't respond if your child is
angry, shouting or in a rage. Waite until they are calm.
interrupt your teenager when they are talking or trying to explain
something - even if you disagree. Waite until they are done.
yourself that simply listening and that telling your child that you
understand does not mean you will agree when they are finished, nor
does it mean you will do what they seem to want.
your teenager names or label them with words like liar, a thief, a brat,
a punk, childish, immature, untrustworthy, selfish, cruel, unkind,
stupid, etc... These words will not help. Your child will only begin
to think of you in negative terms and may even start calling you worse
Talk less and
use fewer words than your teenagers.
teenager that you understand what they are saying. Say "I
understand." And if you don't understand, say "I'm not
sure I understand, ...tell me again."
don't agree and you are certain that you understand your teenager's
point of view (and your teenager believes you understand) tell your
teenager. "I think I understand, but I don't agree with
you. I want to think we can understand each other, but we don't have
can also agree with your child, but you don't have to let them do
whatever they want. For instance, you might agree that their is be no
significant difference between some teenagers who are 17 years old and
some people who are 21 years old, but that does not mean you will
allow teenagers to consume alcohol at a party at your house.
yourself or argue if your child expects you to justify the fact that
you do not agree.
teenager stops talking, ask "Is there anything else you want to
If you get
overwhelmed or upset, tell your child "I'm overwhelmed and a
little upset. I need a break and a chance to calm down and think about
this." Then tell them you want a 20 minute (or so) break and then
you will talk to them again. Be sure to take a break.
professional advice from a qualified mental health professional if
your child is demanding, threatening or acting as if they should be
allowed to do whatever they want.
parents are speaking with a teenagers, it is important to take turns,
but be careful to let your teenagers speak as much as BOTH parents
speak. Both parents should talk equally and use less words than their
Steps You Can Take That
Will Help Reduce the Risk of a Runaway
Develop a Crisis Intervention plan for
your teenager if the situation involves a crisis or recurrent crises.
Seek an evaluation and advice from a
qualified mental health professional or crisis intervention specialist
if your child may be self-harming, suicidal, destructive or
- Review and familiarize yourself with the material
on this web site that pertain to Crisis
- Seek counseling or therapy for any emotional problems or
difficulties associated with any angry, violent or suicidal
behavior from a qualified mental health professional.
- Evaluate any alcohol and other drug use and treat
as recommended by a qualified professional.
- Encourage a medical evaluation and treatment for any mental illness
or other medical condition requiring medication or medical treatment.
- If appropriate, consider enrolling and participating in an
educational or skills training group that will improve communication
and interpersonal skills (e.g. parenting skills, communication,
divorce adjustment, assertiveness training, conflict resolution, or
strategies to diffuse angry, aggressive and violent behavior).
- Develop a plan that will minimize and limit all communication that
usually leads to conflict, aggression or violence and take steps to
resolve problems calmly. Establish a plan that supports communication.
- If there is abuse or neglect, seek advice and further investigation
from a qualified mental health profession, law enforcement or an
attorney who has experience dealing with abuse and neglect issues.
An attorney can provide absolute confidentiality. Law enforcement and
some mental health professionals cannot.
Copyright 2000 to 2008, Michael G. Conner