Runaway Children

There are approximately 100,000 young children  under the age of 16 who run away from home each year in the UK.

What happens to these children as they face a life on the streets is unpleasant if not life-threatening.  Many of the children leave home without realizing that although things at home maybe bad, what they face out on the street is often far worse.   Parents are often shocked and many runaways are never even reported to the authorities for the shame and guilt that parents face when their child leaves.

Of course many children do return home.  And many do not.

What can you as a parent do to tackle this issue of runaway children?   Often it is the home environment that creates the desire to escape in the first place.  The obvious issues of abuse, bullying, alcoholism, violence will all create a situation where it feels intolerable for a child to continue to live there.  However, relationships that are stressed with family rows, unemployment and financial pressure, divorce and marital breakdown, death or bereavement can also contribute to a homelife that feels unstable, unhappy and for a child who even as a young teenager will still lives in a world of the imagination, who’s head can be filled with childhood dreams of a better place, the urge to leave can be so strong.  The imagination will create a happier place.  However the error is that the happier place in the fantasy is far removed from the reality.

Many parents spend less and less time talking to their children. Simple daily check-ins at the dinner table are increasingly rare.  Tucking a child into bed at night, reading a story and having a bedside chat is for some families a daily activity which usually ceases to be a daily ritual after a certain age, if at all.  So when does that connection between parent and child get nourished?  For if that connection is not maintained, the thread gets thinner and thinner so that if things feel bad at home, instead of finding a way to talk it through the child leaves.

So even if things are bad, there has to be a reason why a child will stay, some hope, some trust restored, some faith.  To be sure all children leave home one day, but as parents we need to ask, will that leaving be graceful and with a solid connection that will be maintained all our lives, or will it be dramatic door slamming exits, or even silent nighttime disappearances?    I believe the connection we make with our toddler, our 5 year old, our 10 year old are what keeps that child with us as they enter the teen years.  And it’s never too late to sit down and share who you are with your child.  They will feel the connection to you for that transparency and connect to you in a way that just might keep them from disappearing into a life on the streets.