"I'm afraid that my friend may runaway. How can I stop it?"
It is estimated that on any given night, there are between five hundred and one thousand homeless youth on the streets of Seattle, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and other major cities. Many of them are runaways - teens under the age of 18 who leave their home or place of legal residence without the permission of parents or a legal guardian. They come from every social class, race, and religion. And they are usually hungry, scared, desperate, and very vulnerable to crime.
If you think your friend is about to run away, ask her or him these questions:
Why run away?
- What else can you do to improve your home situation before you leave?
- What would make you stay at home?
- How will you survive?
- What will you do for money?
- Is running away safe?
- Who can you count on for help?
- Are you being realistic?
- Have you given this enough thought?
- What are your other options?
- If you end up in trouble, who will you call?
- When you return home, what will happen?
The most common reason that teens run away is family problems over such issues as: curfew, behavior, dress code, grades, and the choice of friends. Teens also may choose to run away because of problems they are afraid to face, such as bullying at school, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or alcohol and drug problems.
There are a number of teens that may choose life on the street because of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in their home. The nature of ANY kind of abuse - the shame your friend may have, and the possible involvement of parents, stepparents, or other family members - may make it extremely difficult for your friend to tell. This is not a time for your friend to runaway!
Encourage your friend to tell a teacher, counselor, babysitter, neighbor, clergy person, or your parents. Offer to go along with your friend to give her or him support. Let your friend know that being abused is not her or his fault. Be clear to your friend - nothing about what they say, the way they look, or how they behave gives ANYONE the right to use or hurt them!
Signs that your friend may run away:
If you are afraid that your friend may run away:
- She or he has sudden and dramatic mood swings that affect eating and socializing patterns.
- Her or his school grades, attendance, and behavior suddenly drop.
- She or he suddenly starts carrying large amounts of money and even asks you to keep some of it.
- She or he gives away clothing and other valuable items.
- She or he starts talking to you about running away. "Do you think anyone would miss me if I leave home?" (Take these statements seriously!)
Problems of being a runaway:
- Let her or him know that running away will not solve anything! It will make things worse!
- Ask your friend to get permission to stay with you and your family for a couple of days.
- Encourage your friend to talk to her or his parents, grandparents, or teacher.
- If your friend says she or he is being abused, tell your parents immediately! Your friend's life may depend on it! Your parents can call the police, local child protective services, or 1-800-4-A-CHILD (Childhelp USA) .
According to the National Runaway Hotline:
Being a teen is not easy. There are a whole lot of ups and downs, changes, and new experiences. Sometimes it may feel that your parents don't make things easier with their demands. "My parents don't listen to me!" This is the most common complaint teens and even younger children have about their parents. Parents, on the other hand, have the same complaint: "She won't listen to me!"
- Nine out of ten teens return home or are returned to their home by the police within a month. If your friend runs away, she or he may not be one of the nine that returns home.
- A lot can happen in one month. Many runaways, who remain in the streets for two or more weeks, will become involved in theft, drugs, or pornography. One out of every three teens on the street will be lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
- Your problems at home are replaced by more serious and dangerous problems on the street! It's not worth it!
Here are some family communication tips:
If this doesn't work, and you find yourself in a crisis with your parents, contact the National Runaway Hotline (1-800-RUNAWAY). They can help you work through your problems and even set-up conference calls with you and your parents. The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day. It is also confidential and free. Remember, running away doesn't solve anything. It can make things worse!
- Set aside time to talk to your parents every day.
- Don't expect your parents to read your mind.
- Be specific about your expectations and requests.
- Have patience - good communication takes time and effort.
- Brainstorm ideas with your parents before making a final decision.
- Ask for input from all family members.
- Write things down. Make a list of changes you want to see.
- Be willing to compromise with your parents.
- Use community resources when you need help. Ask a teacher or school counselor for leads.
This article is from the U.S. government
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