Did you know that teens running away from home are much more common than you think? According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), about 33,706 people – mostly teenagers – were reported to have been missing as of December last year, and those were just reported cases. The National Runaway Switchboard says over 1.5 million teenagers run away from home each year.
The stats are scary, especially for those who have teenagers in their households. Finding a loved one is much more difficult than keeping them from leaving in the first place, but how can you tell if a teenager is already trying to run away? According to experts, the answer lies in understanding the different signs of running away.
- Staying Out Late
If you’re used to your teenager coming home at seven in the evening, but then you’re suddenly caught off-guard when they stay out late without prior warning. Over the next few days, you notice that your teenager has been coming home later and later in the evening. This could be a sign that they are already checking out how far they can go before they are noticed.
Suddenly putting your foot down and forcing them to go home earlier is more likely to aggravate the teenager and increase the chances that they will run away. It’s fine to ask a couple of questions about what they are up to, but a straight-up interrogation won’t help much. The increased attention to their routine should discourage them from being sneaky and running away since they know that you’re paying attention to them.
- Showing Signs of Alcohol or Drug Use
Running away isn’t always an instant process. In many cases, running away is a series of days where the teenager gets progressively less and less inclined to go home. This can be evident in the diminishing control over their lifestyle. The weaker your authority over them, the more they are likely to indulge in getting drunk or getting high.
Be more firm when it comes to imposing rules regarding alcoholism or substance abuse. If you see them looking wasted, don’t immediately scold them; wait for the right time to confront them about it. Make it clear that you’re only asking for their sake and that you want to help with their problems – the main reason why many teens leave is that they feel like nobody at home can back them up.
- Staying More Frequently at Friends’ Houses
Have you ever noticed that your teenager has been spending more nights over at their friends’ homes? This could be an indication that they would rather stay somewhere where the house rules, the environment, or even the head of the household is more desirable. If left unaddressed, their friend might keep reinforcing the idea that your home is a bad place to be in and could eventually convince them to run away.
Surprisingly, the best way to deal with this is to try to make your home a better place for them. Ask your teenager what exactly they want to change in the home. What do they want and what should go? While complying 100% with their wishes isn’t always possible, you should still try to work out compromises – anything that could help make home a better place for them is worth the trouble.
- Being Less Sociable
Most teenagers trying to run away will not want their parents or other family members to know what they’re planning to do. As a result, they tend to keep to themselves more and minimize contact with other members of the household. Trying to force them to confess about their plans can make matters worse, so what should you do?
As it turns out, simply being more sociable can discourage them from leaving. You don’t even have to force a confession about their escape plan – talking to your teenager more often about different things should be able to do the trick. This is because socializing with them is one of the best ways to acknowledge that they are there and that their opinions matter in your household.
Most teenagers have thought of running away from home, but those that actually do run away only do so because there were no efforts to stop them. Keep these tips in mind and your teenager should have no reason to pack their bags and leave your household.