“My youth is threatening to run away from home”
Is What I’m Seeing Normal?
Everybody goes through times when they feel like they need to take a break from things or press “pause” on their life. Taking time away from a situation when needed is a normal and healthy thing. Usually, taking a break helps a person to feel better and lets them come back to the situation feeling ready to deal with and get on with things. However, threatening or deciding to run away from home is an extreme reaction to feeling unable to cope.
Should I be Worried?
Many young people think about or threaten to run away at some point, but usually this is only a threat or passing thought. However, some young people who feel unable to cope with conflict or other issues at home feel like they can find no other solution but to leave home. This can leave you, as the parent or caregiver, reeling, confused, and sick with worry.
Some of the reasons youth may be at risk of running away include:
- Frequent fighting or increased tension in the home
- Having worries that they are afraid to tell you (e.g. trouble at school, with peers)
- Feeling unable to cope with change or turmoil at home (e.g. abuse, divorce, blended family)
- Transition to a new home, school or community
- Feelings of anxiety or depression
- Substance abuse
How Can I Help?
Hearing that your youth is thinking about running away can be very alarming and upsetting, and may cause you to want to try to take control immediately. However, it is important to know that even when youth run away, they often do not stay away for long (2 to 14 days) and usually remain within their community (e. g. with a friend). Youth will usually come home on their own. But, it is important not to ignore your youth’s threats to run away as this is often a cry for help or a sign of a bigger problem.
The first thing to do is try talking to your youth. Approach the conversation from a non-judge mental stance and show that you are willing to listen without jumping to react. Tell him/her that you would like to work on and resolve the issue so that he/she doesn’t feel like running away is the only answer.
If your youth does decide to run away, take these steps:
1.) Check with family members and friends who are close with your youth
2.) Contact the police
3.) Call or send a text or email expressing your concern and asking him/her to come home
When your youth does return home, try not to react in anger. Tell him/her that you are upset because you love them and were worried for their safety when they are gone. Offer to listen to their concerns and reasons why they felt the need to leave home.
If running away or threats of running away becomes an ongoing problem in your family, it may be time to ask for outside help. If your youth is under the age of 16 and you are having trouble coping with his or her behavior, you can contact the Peel Children’s Aid Society for help. No matter what the age of your youth, you can also seek out family counseling, individual counseling or crisis support from a local community agency. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that other parents are experiencing similar struggles to you, so there is help out there.