A child is reported missing, every three minutes in the UK. This estimation must be a grave concern and a very frightening prospect for any parent.
The above estimate no doubt includes abducted children however, today I want to talk mainly around children who run away or intend running away from home. This is not because the case of abducted children by a stranger and against their will isn’t that important; less than 1% of the overall children who go missing have been abducted and a great number of these children in the region of say 90% are found and returned home safely.
Runaway children are the most reported missing children here in the UK. It is important to note also that whilst a number of children run away from home, some children however are asked or forced to leave home (referred here as Thrownaway children) for whatever reasons.
Who and What’s The Typical Run Away Child?
There is no such thing as a typical runaway child. I hope you weren’t expecting a straight to the point answer to help identify if your child has the potential of running away from home. Whilst there are some signs that one can watch out for, alluding to or suggesting a definite sign would certainly be misleading indeed.
It is slightly more common for girls than boys to run away from home, and it is frightening to acknowledge that children can begin running as young as 9 years old.
Children who run away, do so from both affluent homes and low-income households, so in a sense, one’s social-economic status doesn’t really matter as much as what from a child’s perspective (real or imagined) is their day-to-day living experience that cultivates the thoughts of running away, and in some cases acting upon said thoughts.
All a child needs to run away is the willingness to do so. More often this willingness to act arises from experiences that they find stressful to deal with either at home or at school, and would rather run than stay to face consequences. Bearing this in mind, the one important skill a parent can give to a child that will serve them well in life is to encourage and teach problem-solving skill.
Conditions That Make Children Want To Run Away
Some children would want to run away simply because they see this on television with a make belief view that life on the streets is charming and that one can do as they pleases without a parent or caregiver ‘dictating’ their life. In reality we know life on the streets is miserable, cold, lonely and full of exploitation especially for younger children.
For most children however the following prevailing conditions is the underlying cause for running away:
Abused Verbally…constantly being yelled or screamed at directly.
Abused Physically…violence directed at oneself or someone in the household.
Abused Sexually…made to do sexual acts.
Neglect…denied of basic needs such as food, clothing etc. Not acknowledging one’s existence.
Losing a family member…due to dying, parents having separated or divorced or a sibling having
Drugs or Alcohol dependent…A child not wanting parents to know they have a problem or
someone in the household excessively drinks or uses drugs.
Problems at school…trouble with school work or being bullied.
Stress… generally anything a child finds stressful, includes the dislike for rules and fear of reprisals.
Why Some Children Threaten To Run Away
“I will ran away if you ask me to do that”. These children seldom run away, instead they use these threats to manipulate and avoid chores or face up to responsibilities. It is important that as parents or caregivers we are aware of this power ploy at play and remain calm and in control. At the same time do also explore with your child if there are other underlying causes, such as problems at school etc., much deeper than just running away from doing the dishes or cleaning their room.
It is never a good idea to try and play the game of helping your child to pack their bags simply because they said they would leave or are leaving. For a child who feels already neglected or have a sense that they are treated as though they don’t exist this action alone will confirm their sense of rejection.
The best response to such threats is to remind your child that running away will never solve their problems, as sooner or later they will still have to face whatever it is that they were avoiding. They need to hear also that the family rules will always be there regardless. As mentioned elsewhere helping your child with problem-solving skills is the best thing you can do for them.
What To Do If Your Child Runs Away
Don’t forget that children run away from issues and problems they can’t or don’t know how to handle.
Finding out that your child has left home can be devastating and one’s immediate thoughts would be to find them and bring them back home safe. You can not do this alone and will need all the support and assistance you can get from family, friends, neighbours, school and your local police.
A good resource for missing children can be found here.
A number of children return home themselves or are found. Some will call to assure parents that they are well and okay. In a sense what they are trying to communicate is that they aren’t ready to come home as yet. It is important to remain calm and hear them out as anything short of this will discourage them from calling again.
You, Are You A Child Thinking of Running Away?
Sometimes things might seem too much for you to handle and you might feel you have no other choice but to run away, like leaving is the only option. That is not true; you always have a choice.
Please take sometime to watch this YouTube video by JAYLOVE47. It makes a lot of sense and I hope you watch it.
I cannot claim to know exactly what you are going through right at this moment, or even begin to understand your willingness to run away but one thing I know for certain is that there are lots of people you can talk to, who will listen and help.
If you ever feel you are in danger or feel unsafe, contact the police immediately on 999. You can also talk to an adult you can trust.
You may also contact for advice and help:
Missing People, a free and confidential helpline via call or text on 116 000 and via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Childline on 0800 1111
And finally if you happen to be away from home, please do keep in touch as your folks will be worried about you. Assuring them you are safe is important.