Runaway Child Prevention: 4 Actions To Take
A child running away can be triggered by several things including alcohol or substance abuse, fear, anger, feelings of failure, peer pressure, mental health problems, and more. Whatever the reason may be for them leaving home, finding out that your child has run away is any parent’s worst nightmare.
How To Prevent A Child From Running Away
It’s a sad truth that kids, especially teens, often see running away as a way to achieve power and independence. By then, it’s too late to realize all they get is a false sense of power and independence. They also often see running away as the only means to solve their problems. These children don’t understand just yet that running away will not magically make their problems disappear.
As parents, it is up to you to provide your children with the proper guidance so they don’t see running away from home as their only option. While there are things you can do once they do run away, it’s best to take preventive measures so it doesn’t happen in the first place.
1. Encourage Sense of Responsibility and Teach Problem-Solving Skills
It’s crucial to teach your kids essential problem-solving skills. Avoid coddling them especially as they get older. Instead of giving answers or solutions, work with them by discussing the problem at hand and exploring mutually acceptable solutions. Instead of just giving them orders, assign them certain responsibilities to help them realize every action has its consequences.
It’s equally important to appreciate their efforts especially when they successfully resolve something. However, if they fail, avoid criticizing them. Instead, show them how it could've been handled better.
2. Create an Atmosphere of Trust, Respect, and Acceptance
It is crucial to create an atmosphere where your child feels comfortable to bring up their problems or issues to you. Let them know that whatever questions they may have, they will be respected and answered as honestly as possible. You should also try to be more open and honest about your own feelings. This way, they will feel respected and accepted. In turn, they will trust you more, meaning there’s less of a chance they would run away and instead, talking to you or asking for help.
Moreover, create an atmosphere of unconditional love but be careful not to cross over to molly-coddling territory. For instance, let them know if they make a mistake but at the same time, ensure they understand you don’t love them any less for their mistake.
3. Regularly Check in with Your Kids and Seek to Understand Them
Be ‘present’ in your child’s life. Pay attention to what they have to say and to what is happening in their lives. Don’t just pretend to listen; listen to understand. It will also help to try looking at the situation the way your child probably views it. Asking simple questions like “How’s it going?” or “Do you need help with anything?” regularly will make them feel you care.
It also helps to develop a relationship with your kid’s friends. Get to know them better, and their parents too if possible. This will help in better understanding your child. It can also come in handy if your child does run away.
4. Use Parenting Tools or Parental Control Apps
Another preventive measure parents resort to in this digital age is the utilization of parental control or monitoring apps. This may seem extreme to some but it is a nice option to have. For instance, if you notice sudden changes in your child’s behavior and can’t get them to talk about it, a phone tracking software and monitoring app could help immensely. If your child does run away, you can use it to track their location.
These apps can help parents keep tabs on their kid’s whereabouts in real-time. Some apps have a geofencing feature that alerts you when your child goes somewhere they shouldn’t be. Apps like Auto Forward, Highster Mobile, and PhoneSpector also let you know who your child is connecting with online or through calls and text messages.
What To Do If Your Child Runs Away
Even if you believe your child won’t get to the point of wanting to run away, it is still important to be prepared in case. Familiarize yourself with what you should do when the situation arises. Learn about how to find a runaway child and return them home. Keep in mind that in such situations, time is of the essence.
Here are some of the things to do if you find out that your child has run away.
- Inform the Police
There is no waiting period for reporting that a child is missing. The moment you find out your child has run away, inform the police. Ask the police to immediately conduct a search within a mile radius from where you believe was your child’s location. Make a record of your phone calls, conversations, and other information that the police provide. You can also do your own search but it’s best to coordinate with law enforcement.
You can also ask your local police about entering your child into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) which is an essential tool in locating a missing person. Make sure to obtain your child’s NCIC number and include it in missing posters or online posts you create.
- Spread the Word
Tell your immediate community about your missing child. Provide them with the details that could help. Print out missing posters and ask them to distribute them in your area. Reach out to your child’s school, their friends, their usual hangouts, and anyone else in their network for information. Make sure to relay to the police whatever new information you obtain.
You can also make use of the power of social media. You can create a Facebook page dedicated to finding your missing child or post on your personal account. Just be mindful of what you say about your missing child as they are likely to see your post about them. Also, be careful in following up on tips you get. As much as possible, coordinate with the police before taking any action.
When you finally find your child, make sure to address the problem properly. Make them understand your concern for their safety while also listening to and understanding what they have to say.