Being a teenager is perhaps the most troublesome phase in life. At this stage, one has to deal with many changes at once; physical developments and coming to terms with increased responsibility, to name a few. With so much going on and the surplus of hormones controlling the mind and the body, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.
Often, teenagers get excessively frustrated with the pressure of transitioning into a new life phase. In such situations, it is also normal for them to be annoyed with their parents, members of their household, teachers, and other well-wishers. This frustration can lead to them taking big, difficult, and often wrong steps. One of their reactions may be to run away from home.
However, it is not just the overwhelming pressure of teenage life that can cause a teen to run away. There can be several reasons for a teenager to take the dire step of leaving their home.
Why Do Teenagers Run Away From Home?
Teenagers go through several hormonal changes that make them overly sensitive to even the smallest triggers, such as a normal argument with their parents. These cases make up about 41% of runaways. In other cases, however, the cause behind a teenager abandoning their home may be more severe and sometimes even life-threatening.
Below are some reasons a teenager might choose to run away from home.
Most parents often find themselves in a tough spot when it comes to raising and dealing with teenagers. As a result, they can sometimes get too frustrated, show harsh reactions to the smallest inconvenience, or try to exert excessive control over their child’s life. This is equally stressful for the teens who, given the phase they are going through, believe they deserve more privacy and control over their lives and decisions.
Parents and teenagers may often find themselves arguing about insignificant issues. When this situation becomes regular, teenagers may feel suffocated living in their homes with their parents. Most of the time, their only solution is to leave the household for good.
Mental Health Problems
Teenagers are especially sensitive individuals, mostly because of hormonal changes. Along with having to deal with this, they have to come to terms with stepping into adulthood, making big decisions for themselves, and understanding the term they are going through. All this is enough to overwhelm a child. However, coupled with body image problems, status complex, bullying, and other societal dilemmas, even small problems can have exponential consequences.
Teenagers are prone to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, but their symptoms usually go unnoticed because of the assumption that such behavior is part of the teenage transition.
Some teenagers may also suffer from ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), in which the affected person finds it difficult to obey orders and may get agitated when their parents tell them what to do. Teens affected by ODD are highly likely to run away from their homes because they can not tolerate authority.
In most cases, the teen may blame their parents for their mental and emotional confusion. A teenager going through mental issues can resort to violence, self-harm, or drugs, and many choose to run away from home due to the immense mental pressure and the inability to deal with it correctly. Plus, the stigma in society about mental illnesses and the fear of judgment by parents, relatives, or fellows stop many teens from seeking help at the right time or at all.
If there is a stage in life when a person is most adversely affected by peer pressure, it has to be the teenage years. If a teenager falls into the wrong company, it could only mean disaster. Often, a teenager may experiment with drugs or other substances under peer pressure and fall into a spiral of self-destruction. Once they become addicted, there is no turning back, especially because these problems go unnoticed by parents until it is too late.
Even in situations where parents get involved, the teen is likely to consider them their enemies and would rather run away from home than have them question their actions. Substance abuse can make teens end up without their senses on the streets or in even worse conditions.
Most people have the misconception that teenagers run away from their houses because of their rebellious nature, to seek more independence, or simply to look for adventure. But nothing can be further from the truth. The majority of runaway teenagers report being physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by a trusted individual(s).
Although these reasons alone are enough to make anyone leave the environment of abuse, some teens try to ask for help or inform someone trustworthy. However, many a time, these calls for help go unanswered, for example, when parents trust the abusive identity a lot or if the parents themselves are the abusers.
Teenagers abused in some way or form are prone to several mental health problems, self-harm, and escaping their homes.
Trouble With Adolescence
Teenagers go through several problems during this crucial phase of their lives, but some problems may also be quite mundane and insignificant. Nonetheless, even these seemingly minor issues can trouble teenagers a lot due to their increased emotional sensitivity. A mistake often made in such situations by parents and teachers is to ignore the problems, considering them mundane “teen stuff.”
Therefore, teenagers may feel even more annoyed that their problems are not heard and solved. In such cases, they may want an increased degree of independence and escape from the people who ignore their problems, believing that someone may listen to them outside their home.
What Can Parents Do To Prevent A Teenage Runaway?
When it comes to teenagers and their problems, a lot of responsibility falls on parents’ shoulders to deal with them in a smart and cautious way. Understandably, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with the burden of responsibility; parents can resort to various ways to resolve their teen’s issues and prevent them from running away from the house.
Parents should also know that they do not have to deal with this alone and can always ask for help from various resources. The institution of Eagle Ranch Academy provides support for struggling teens and their parents to prevent runaway cases and other problems.
On a personal level, parents can still do a lot to ensure their teenager does not feel ignored and resorts to various negative methods of escaping their troubles.
The fact that communication between parents and children, especially teenagers, is key can not be emphasized enough. The bottom line of most runaway cases is that the teenager felt their issues were unheard of and that their parents did not take their troubles seriously. Parents can only prevent teenagers from running away if they make time for them to sit and have meaningful conversations with them.
The more the parents are invested in their teen’s life, the less likely the teen is to opt for dire decisions like running away. Parents should keep in touch with their teenagers about their friends, the latest developments in their personal life, and whether they are concerned about anything at the time.
It is also imperative to be non-judgemental towards the teen and not scold them or make them feel guilty if they confess their activities to you. Doing so will block all channels of communication in the future.
Treat Mental Health Problems
In most cases, regardless of age, symptoms of mental health problems are nearly invisible to those around the affected person. However, upon closer inspection and with the right amount of knowledge about the issue, parents can determine whether their teen is going through any such trouble. Mental health issues are silent killers that can lead to far worse consequences than running away from home.
If parents notice anything odd in their teen’s behavior, such as drifting apart, being unusually quiet, or lack of interest in otherwise favorite activities, they should start closely monitoring the teen’s activities and behavior. If they are afraid that the situation is critical, they should immediately involve relevant authorities and experts.
Monitor The Teen’s Circle
Associating with the wrong people, especially at an age when the brain is still tender and developing, can have dire consequences. Negative peer pressure can lead teens to fall into devious traps and take up dangerous activities like substance abuse, self-harm, and running away from home.
It is crucial for parents to keep a vigilant eye on their teenager’s social circle and voice any concerns they have about certain individuals they hang out with. Doing so may also garner a frustrated reaction from the teenager, but it is best to try not to falter when that happens. Of course, it does not mean completely invading your teen’s privacy. With good communication, you can learn much about what is going on in their lives and circles.
Parents should try to calmly explain to their kids what they are concerned about and what this could lead to. This step would require patience, and some parents may consider it best to involve school authorities in this case, too, to ensure their teen stays away from the wrong company.
Believe Your Teen
Many problems take root when there is a lack of trust and communication between parents and teenagers. Especially in cases of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse perpetrated by anyone other than the parents, teenagers often find it difficult to share it with their parents. In cases where they muster the strength to share their tribulation, some parents refuse to believe them, especially if the perpetrator is someone close to the family.
Not believing your teenager during a trying time like this can permanently damage the trust between the parents and the teen. Many teens would prefer to escape from this environment, considering it toxic and rightfully so.
Working with your teenager to solve their problems is an arduous task. In many situations, parents may feel on the brink of losing patience and reacting badly. However, no matter how trying the situation gets, it is best to stay calm and collected to prevent the teenager from being intimidated or drifting apart. Parents should remember that a moment of patience now can help keep their teenagers close to them and stop them from running away.
Sometimes, dealing with problems with your teenager may take a week or two. In other cases, it may be a process that lasts for months. Either way, parents need to display patience and stay collected in order to make the teenager feel more relaxed in their presence and share things with them.
Do Not Judge
Often, parents make the mistake of being judgemental when a teenager finally decides to confess to them about past activities they are ashamed of or a wrong act they were involved with. This reaction contributes to them shutting their parents out for good and leaving home.
If your teen confides in you about something troubling them, listen patiently and do not comment on it unnecessarily, regardless of how infuriated you feel. This would make the teenager feel heard, take a lot of burden off their shoulders, and make them realize that their home is indeed a safe haven for them.
After the conversation is over and your teenager feels more comfortable around you, try bringing into the conversation how you do not approve of the wrong activity or crowd they were involved with.
Immediate Steps To Take If A Teenager Runs Away
If your teenager is nowhere to be seen, ensure to first thoroughly check the house, including any hiding spots or secret locations they may be able to hide in. All the while, keep trying to contact the teen on their phone. After this inspection, rush to the kid’s school and ask for thorough checking of the entire campus. The school authorities will almost always comply with your request if you voice your concern about this being a runaway case.
Contact relatives and the teen’s friends from school or your neighborhood to ask them about their last known whereabouts. Keep calm and think of any possible locations the teen would opt to go to, for example, a safe space during a stressful situation.
If all attempts to find the teenager fail, wait an hour or so and then contact the relevant authorities to file a missing person report. A common misconception is that one should wait 24 hours before filing a report. However, that is not the case, and a report should be filed if there is no sign of the lost individual returning.
If your teen tries to contact you in such a case, stay as calm as possible and do not shower them with questions. Most runaway teenagers escape the house to make a point and be heard by their parents and families. Therefore, in case of contact, tell them that you are concerned for them, that they can confide in you, and that you can help them solve any troubles they are facing.
When your teenager returns home, do not scold or treat them harshly. Treat them with love and prove that you appreciate that they listened to you and returned home. In any case, remind them that they are safer in their home rather than on the streets.
Consequences Of Running Away On The Teenager
No matter how hard present situations may be, running away from one’s home is never an easy choice, especially for teenagers, since at that age, one is used to a certain comfort zone. Yet, every year, thousands or more teens choose to run away from home for various reasons. To them, their present condition may justify this action. However, many teens do not consider how running away would affect their lives.
Living On The Streets
Many teenagers would consider living on the streets a better alternative to living in a household they consider toxic. Though this may sound justified, it is an impractical approach. Being homeless is not an adventurous experience but a difficult and excruciating one.
This is especially true since teenagers do not have any resources, financially or otherwise, to their name. Having to sleep on the pavement, searching for temporary shelter, and looking for food are all incredibly difficult experiences.
Falling Victim To Crimes
Perpetrators of serious offenses are often on the lookout for innocent and unassuming victims, which they can easily find in the form of runaway teenagers. These offenses may include drug usage and thievery or more heinous crimes like murders or human trafficking.
A teenager accustomed to a certain lifestyle and away from the security of their home can easily fall prey to lies and crimes, which could lead to severe consequences. Runaway teenagers can not only fall victim to crimes, but they may also be brainwashed into participating in them.
No Prospect Of A Good Future
Teenage is the time to make significant decisions about life, education, and career. However, choosing to run away is equivalent to giving up on all these decisions and, as a result, on a bright future. Running away from home can lead a teenager to waste precious years of their life after an emotional decision.
Becoming homeless out of choice at such a tender age can have horrible results. With no one to guide or support you through an already confusing stage of life, it is highly likely that you will end up in the worst of conditions.
What Can A Teen Do To Solve Their Problems?
Thoughts about running away from home are perfectly normal in teens because of the exhaustive pressure of the teenage phase. However, with a few mindful steps, they can fight these intrusive thoughts without compromising their future or risking their lives.
Talk To Your Parents
There may be times when a teen might consider their parents their enemies. But in most situations, parents are only trying to protect them. The constant authoritative dealing and certain invasion of privacy may be a handful at times. Teenagers can try to solve this issue by communicating with their parents about wanting a certain degree of independence. Doing so politely and calmly will almost always guarantee positive results, and many parents are highly likely to ease their restrictions.
It is easy to feel alone at a trying time when feeling frustrated with life and wanting to run away from home. But teenagers should know they are never alone; many other people out there are going through or have gone through the same situation.
Try to look for community support or authenticated social media groups for teenagers experiencing the same troubles as you. Talk to your parents about wishing to go to therapy or social support meetings.
Do Not Be Afraid
If you are going through physical or sexual abuse, try reaching out to relevant authorities as soon as possible. Authorities will never leave you at the mercy of the predators if you voice your concern for your life, and you will be offered full protection. Therefore, instead of choosing to escape your home due to circumstances you have no control over, it is best to try to fight back.
While running away from home is a difficult decision for any teenager, it is an equally tough experience for the parents. However, this trouble can almost always be prevented by making smart decisions and getting involved in the teenager’s life without unnecessarily invading their privacy.
Parents can try to monitor the teen’s behavior and keep an eye out for any odd signs. In case of a doubt that the teen may be undergoing a mental health problem, try to talk to them about it and then try to convince them for therapy or community support groups. Keep a close eye on their social circle and do not let them get mixed up with the wrong company. Monitor any odd signs that point to substance abuse or addiction.
It is imperative to remind teenagers that their life phase is perfectly normal and that their feelings are justified. Parents can play a big role in reducing teenage runaway cases simply by trying to understand teen issues and knowing the right steps to take.