The National Runaway Safeline reports that between 1.6 million and 2.8 million youth run away each year. If you are afraid that your teenager is thinking of running away or has ever threaten you, the first thing you should do is take them seriously.
Whether they intend to leave or not, informing you they intend to do so indicates that something serious is going on in their lives. It might be something to do with their connection with you. It might be anything to do with their friendships. Something stressful and challenging likely occurred at school, and they’re unsure how to deal with it.
In any event, if your teenager threatens to go, don’t ignore it.
We also advise avoiding responding in the heat of the moment. If they make it in the middle of an argument, you might be inclined to respond, “Go ahead and do it if that’s what you want to do.”
When difficulties have been brewing for a while, it might be tough to take a step back. However, there may be cases when you need to step back and consider what your adolescent is saying to you. Allow them to tell you what is going on from their point of view.
You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you should listen. If your teen sees you listening to their worries, they are more inclined to listen to you.
What to Do If Your Teen Threatens They Will Run Away
One thing to remember is that if they threaten you before running away, you can make things right. A threat is frequently a request for assistance or a test of limits rather than a statement of genuine intent. It’s also crucial to realize that a threat to flee from an adolescent is not the same as a threat to escape from a school-age youngster.
Some parenting experts recommend letting the situation play out: a seven-year-old often goes three homes down the street before realizing they have nowhere to go, nothing to eat, and no plan. They then turn around and return home.
Again, if they threaten you, it suggests they have yet to be exposed to all of the risks mentioned above. Here’s what experts on teenagers and teen runaways recommend if your teen threatens to run away:
As previously stated, a threat to flee frequently occurs during an argument. If this is the case with your adolescent, the most crucial thing you can do is remain calm. Avoid replying out of rage, a need to be correct, or in any way that appears dismissive. This comprises sarcasm, jokes, rude comments, and snarkiness.
It is your responsibility to be the adult and diffuse the situation rather than add fuel to the fire. Take a few deep breaths if you need to. Take five minutes if you need them. Take as much time as you require.
Ask What’s Up
Get to the bottom of the problem. Find out why they desire to leave the house. Investigate the exact reasons for their desire to leave.
It might be your actions. It might be the behavior of your spouse or a sibling. Or it may be completely different: you won’t know unless you ask.
And when you ask, keep your cool, be genuine, and simply listen. Avoid the need to interrupt, refute, or quarrel over who is correct and who is incorrect. The idea is to learn everything there is to know about your teen.
Listen Carefully to What They Say
Your teen may have to break down some complex realities for you. It is your responsibility to listen objectively and think about what they say. They may have issues with family norms or family members’ conduct.
They could feel unappreciated and unaccepted by their relatives. The trick here is to pay attention to them and take their words seriously.
They may divulge unexpected and challenging information, such as emotional, physical, or sexual abuse by another family member. That is really serious. On the other hand, it might be something considerably less dramatic, such as the fact that they dislike curfew, believe you’re overly restricted, or something else. Whatever they say, it’s your job to listen and reflect.
Modify Where Necessary
You may discover essential things about your teen and your relationship if they communicate frankly and you listen. They may be correct: you may be the one who has to change.
Alternatively, your family rules may require modification. The trick here is to be honest with yourself and let go of parental pride. If they are correct and you need to change, make the necessary changes to help enhance your bond with your teenager.
Seek Professional Help
If the issues and emotions underlying their danger are too complex to solve, you may need professional help. You can most certainly assist them with fundamental family issues, basic friend issues, and primary school issues. However, suppose you listen to your teen and understand they are dealing with overwhelming emotions, and you have no clue how to help them other than to love and support them unconditionally.
In that case, you may need to seek professional help. Most of your parents are superheroes in your own families, but we don’t expect you also to be a mental health professional. If what they say is beyond you, seek the help of a therapist or psychiatrist.
Begin with dialogue, then add unconditional love, acceptance, and, if necessary, action. If you listen and answer honestly and take the action required to address actual difficulties, your teen will thank you – and you will reduce their risk of running away.
Furthermore, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) is a great place to find credentialed and trained psychiatrists, therapists, and counselors in your region. Both the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) have high-quality online materials.