Frank and Jean recently found themselves dealing with every parent's nightmare when Patsy, their 14-year-old daughter, ran away from home.
Unfortunately, the experience is not unique. Each year, over 49,000 cases of runaways are entered onto the Canadian police database.
When a child runs away, it's important to act quickly. Parents need to immediately check with their child's friends and school. It's also wise to contact local hospitals as well as places where a child is known to frequent such as malls, community sports facilities and youth drop-ins. Parents should also report a missing child to police.
When a child is found or returns home voluntarily, it's important to respond with love not anger. It's also necessary that parents work with a child to deal with the problems, which caused the young person to flee in the first place. Research indicates that there are many reasons why children run. These range from family conflict to sexual abuse. Studies also indicate that runaways are often suffering from loneliness and/or low self esteem. Given the gravity of many of these problems, parents may wish to seek professional help.
The consequences of not addressing the issues, which cause a child to run, can be grave. Studies show that a child that has run away once is far more likely to deal with an untenable family situation or other problems by running again. That's an outcome that Frank, Jean and Patsy, who are now participating in regular family counseling, are determined to avert.