We, at LostNMissing, see teens younger and younger who are considered “runaways” and thankfully the majority are located safely and brought home. It was asked of me as to “Why with so much education being done regarding teen runaways, are there so many still?”
This is my response. First, I’m not talking about abduction, human trafficking or “unavoidable missing” (as in foul play or an accident occurred) this is specific to willingly “running away”, leaving home .
First, it is rare that a child runs away from home because they are being abused. Yes, it happens…but certainly not the majority.
Emotional Illness/Drug or Alcohol Addiction
This is a very large problem in society and due to the increase of those with mental illness and not enough, or appropriate, care for minor children by the medical establishment. This is almost always the most difficult of all runaway teens as once located they almost always become “repeat offenders” and not due to their environment , parenting or lack of attention …but because the right treatment has yet to be found or lack of treatment…or worse… no funding for treatment.
So what is the MAJORITY of the reasons? What can be done?
In my opinion, the education needs to begin with the parents, more than the child…as most PreTeen and Runaway Teens is due to any of the following: (Again, with the exception of emotional disorders/mental illness)
- child hanging with the wrong crowd.
- lack of responsibility/boredom.
- a spontaneous reaction due to not being taught on how to manage life stresses.
- met someone “exciting” either online or without parental knowledge.
- child doesn’t want to be “parented.”
Parents need to know what their children are doing, who they are talking with and they need to learn to communicate so that their children know that no matter what transpires in life…they can always go to mom or dad …preferably, both.
This brings up another problem. A high increase of one parent households and that parent is usually pulling the burden of working to keep the household in place…hence, the children know they are not monitored as best as possible and tend to run into trouble or feel “left to fend on their own” and as children do…end up not making the best choices.
Parents are exhausted. They may also “not see” what is going on and/or may not know what to look for. Just take a look around on Facebook. You can almost predict which teens are headed in the wrong direction and which ones have no parental supervision…or worse, have parents trying to become friends with their teens as opposed to parenting their teens. Parents need to be taught what to look for and not be so overworked or exhausted to be able to raise their children properly. If a single parent household, then reach out to relatives or friends to look in on the kids when there is a two hour delay before mom or dad gets home from work and child is home alone. (or children) Switch off with “I’ll watch yours if you’ll watch mine” a few times a month.
Age of Technology
While we know the age of technology is a wonderful thing, in many ways, we also know it has many downsides as well as dangerous capabilities when not used properly. I have a real problem when parents are allowing children to have Facebook profiles when clearly Facebook says they must be 16 and I know some as young as 6 have profiles and parents approve because they are “watching their kids.” I want to be very clear on this… WE all know there are things on Facebook that no child should see…heck , some things I wish I never saw. It’s important to educate your children and not make them paranoid…but going the other end of the spectrum and enabling them to “know all” invariably is desensitizing them (which is scary in itself) as well as putting them in a situation that no parent should allow a child to be in. Children are children…not emotionally equipped to handle a lot of what they see, read and hear…contrary to any parent who thinks otherwise.
When a single mom brings a man into the home who has a criminal record/background, sells drugs…and she overlooks that…..I’m sorry but that is not parenting…and when her child runs away and delves into the drug world…and she wonders why?…well, children do as children see.
The other problem is “no accountability.” Just look at the “old days” when a child went to visit a friend’s home, if they got in trouble at their friend’s home…they got in trouble when they came home too! Not today. Today is the “blame game” and the child invariably “gets away” without consequences. A child is in trouble at school and the parents immediately put blame on the teacher? That is not how it used to be. We could have had the meanest teacher that existed and when our parents found out….it was STILL our fault.
Regardless of “labeling”, such as ADHD, ADD for example, if your child is misbehaving and is a brat…stop blaming the “condition” and start raising and learning how to cope (yourself first) so that you can teach your child how to cope as we are not to be raising children…we are supposed to be raising adults. If you raise children, the adults you gave birth to will never be able to cope. Don’t blame the condition, environment or the disorder. There is plenty out there for education and support to learn how to manage and only in very rare cases is it truly a situation in which one can “blame the disorder” as opposed to holding the child accountable.
Then we have lack of communication. Since when should ANY PARENT in the right mind allow a seven-year-old to come over and play with their own seven-year-old without communicating with the child’s parent to be sure they have permission? That in itself is a real problem. Where is the communication? How many young parents can say they know each of their children’s teachers, attend all teacher meetings and keeps an email communication going with their child’s teacher? Again, communication….and more importantly….INTEREST in what their child is doing. Such a lack of that lately too. Don’t get me wrong…I see a lot of young parents doing a wonderful job…but I also see far more who are not.
The majority of teen runaways is due to the way the child given “free reign.”
- Not enough parental supervision
- Not enough interest in what their children are doing, feeling and thinking
- Too many single parents more interested in bringing a boyfriend/girlfriend into the home as opposed to reaching out to family to help until their children are older.
- Too many bringing BAD people into their homes around their children
- Too little discipline and no follow through when children are punished.
- FAR too much technology given to the child at “free will” ; a child to have a cell phone in case of emergency is great…a child DOES NOT need an APPLE I-phone to text and go online. For heavens sakes.
- Not monitoring the way their children are dressed or allow their child to dress inappropriately for their age.
- Enabling a child to have a computer in their bedroom. (If this is not scary, I don’t know what is. A computer should be in a family room with full access of parent views.)
- Giving in to child all of the time as one wants them to “be their friend” and “like them.”
- Allowing a child to date before the age of 16. (this really drives me nuts)
- Putting trust in OTHER ADULTS with children and not even knowing the adult well enough.
- Putting children in the care and trust of another sibling too often.
- Raising children without having them “pull their fair weight” by not giving chores and/or not enforcing them to complete their chores. (age appropriate of course.)
- Watching absolutely inappropriate reality shows in front of (and worse)…with children.
So basically what you end up with is a child who is growing up too fast, is not exposed to “normal childhood” extracurricular activities (such as dance class, karate, swim lessons, baseball, soccer, etc….which is VITAL, in my opinion, that every child should have something along that line to teach them to take pride in an accomplishment, team working, and getting along with peers.) Pre Teens that watch too many crappy, sexual and even vulgar tv shows…dresses in ways that are inappropriate…have online social network sites in which they are posing in bathroom mirrors with pursed lips and angling cameras to show pre cleavage…or males with wads of money pics, and gun photos…and what you have are uncontrollable kids who want to venture out in the world and not have to answer to anyone …and certainly not to the parent who cannot make up their mind if they are a parent or a friend to their child…and boom…you have a teen who decides to go off and run away.
Overall, the majority of teens that run away is due to the fact that they have not been made to be accountable for their actions, have little responsibilities, almost always are “bailed out” and almost always are equipped with every gadget known to be released (from Xbox to Iphones) and did not have to work to earn such items. (“work” such as in showing responsibility and earning “the newest gadget” as in good report cards, help volunteer in the community, dependable to get chores done, etc.) Not because they got “one” good grade or brought up “one” good grade and not because “they want it or deserve it.”
From the National Runaway Switchboard:
I believe the education and training needs to be done to and for the PARENT and it is the parent’s responsibility to raise their young adults and to teach them, praise them, discipline them, and love them…and all the while…being an example for their children to mentor from.
Written by Cynthia Caron, President-Founder of LostNMissing Inc.