It’s not unusual for children to run away from home. In fact, they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years. I’ve done it myself – not once, but three times. Like many children who run away, I came back within a few hours the first time. As child abuse articles often discuss, running away is often impulsive and unplanned. Some children might even look for fun or adventure by running away with a friend, in some cases more than once.
TV, films and books often glorify running away from home. In the juvenile novel where Toby Tyler runs away from his strict uncle to join the circus exemplifies this treatment. After ten weeks with the circus, Toby realized his uncle wasn’t so bad after all, and he went back home. The Prodigal Son mentioned in the Bible parable discusses a similar situation. The son left home to escape his father’s influence and experience the world. Eventually he returned with a better appreciation of what he’d left, and the father welcomed him back. Have a look at this article from Family-Law.co.uk for more info on this.
It is reported that some children who run away from home are rebelling against overly-controlling parents. Others are responding to family instability caused by parental alcohol or substance abuse. Some do it because they’re in some kind of trouble and they don’t want their parents to find out. Divorce and being required to live with the parent they like least, physical, mental and/or sexual abuse, or parental neglect are all by child abuse articles to be additional motivations for children to run away from home.
A child might decide to deal with a death in the family by running away. Retribution can be another reason; some children run away to “get back” at their parents and make them regret some injustice they’ve committed. In some cases, a child doesn’t feel wanted or loved, while others may feel they are victims. There are many more reasons for children to run away, but all runaways believe that the world away from home is better.
What should you do if one of your children runs away? Obviously, getting them back is the first priority. Don’t delay filing a missing person report with the police. When you have your child back, realize that the parent-child relationship may have sustained some damage. Instead of making the damage worse:
* Avoid saying anything you’ll regret.
* Don’t tell your child that running away was stupid, and don’t ridicule or shame your child. Try to understand why they did it, and treat your child with respect.
* Forgive and welcome your child back home, like the Prodigal Son’s father.
* Don’t show your anger; your child already knows you’re upset, and anger may have been what motivated the behavior to begin with. Showing your child love is much better than giving them a reason to run away again.
For children who runaway repeatedly, outside help such as counseling for child and parent might be required to remedy the underlying issue. Parents might not fully understand why their children run away.