Running away: the warning signs
It's difficult to put together an exhaustive list of signs that your teenager might be thinking about running away from home.
Needless to say, every child handles problems or deals with stress in different ways. But here's a list of things to watch out for if you're worried.
- Staying out later than agreed / pushing boundaries
- Not wanting to come home from school, youth club or friends' houses
- Staying over at friends' houses more frequently, or staying with other family members to avoid coming home
- Playing truant, or doing less well at school
- Behaving very differently - for example, acting more aggressively or becoming withdrawn
- Developing new interests outside school, hanging around with a new crowd, or starting a new relationship
- Showing signs of drug or alcohol abuse
- Being very secretive when using the internet
What to do if you're worried that your child may run away
You know your child better than anyone else, and none of the above signs in themselves mean your child is definitely thinking about running away. But if you notice obvious changes in your child's behaviour and these are worrying you, try to talk to them and find out what's going on.
With teenagers, this is often easier said than done. If they clam up, try sending them an email or text to let them know you're worried. If they do open up, ask them what they think they should do about their problem, rather than bombarding them with advice: it might help them feel more in control of the situation.
If you can, talk to your child's other parent to get their perspective and, where possible, present a united front in dealing with the problem. If your child senses that you and their other parent disagree, they may find this even more unsettling, or they may try to play you off against each other, which could make things worse.
It's also worth having a quiet word with any other adults your child spends time with, such as their teacher, youth worker or friends' parents, so they can let you know if they notice anything unusual.
*Source: The Children's Society, Still Running III, 2011