Why Is My Child Running Away, And What Can I Do?

Our kids can run away from home for several reasons. Generally, running away is a means of escaping some more significant consequence. Our kids might have engaged in normal rebellious behavior, testing limits, and pushing boundaries. However, they may have taken their actions too far, and now face several issues at school, at home, or with law enforcement. They might be trying to get away from their actions and are running away to physically avoid facing the consequences. 

Kids might also be “sneaking out.” They might be going to parties or elsewhere to engage in problematic behaviors. However, when our children flee the home in the middle of the night or walk off without our awareness, we should follow some safety protocol because we always want to keep safety in mind. The world can be a dangerous place for our kids, with bad influences around, harsh environments, and trafficking dangers. Safety is paramount when our kids leave without permission or our knowledge.

10 Steps to Take if Your Child Runs Away

During a coaching call with parents, Fire Mountain co-founder Aaron Huey discusses the ten steps parents can take if their kids run away from home. 

  1. Call the police
    • The police will be on the lookout for your child when you call and report.
    • They might even put out an “Amber-alert” for your child.
  2. Inspect your child’s room
    • You can get a good sense of your child’s plan by seeing what they took with them.
    • If they took clothing and supplies to last a few days or more, like extra socks, underwear, extra shoes, or even food and other necessities, then they may be planning to stay out for a long time.
  3. Look on their social media
    • Social media accounts can leave clues about your child’s location.
    • They might be checking in on Facebook or other accounts for updated statuses, which might show their location.
  4. Call your child’s school
    • Even during the weekend, call your child’s school and leave a message that your child ran away.
    • Children and teens often continue going to familiar places and might go to school during the week.
    • If your child goes back to school, then the school can contact you about their appearance.
  5. Search the common places
    • What are the familiar spaces for your child to go to?
    • Where are the usual hangouts? A park? The library? A friend’s house?
  6. Text your child out of concern
    • Now is not the time for lectures or discipline.
    • Let your child know that you are checking that everything is okay, be inviting, and open to their return.
    • Let them know that you have contacted the police.
    • Come from a place of concern for safety and text every hour, even if they are not replying to you.
  7. Lock your home up
    • Make it impossible for your child to sneak back into the home by locking up the doors and windows.
    • This will ensure that they will need to knock or ring the doorbell to enter the home.
  8. If your child comes back without your knowledge
    • If you notice signs that your child returned to get more supplies then ran back out without your knowledge, report this behavior to the police. They might be attempting to break into other homes in the area.
    • Change the locks so that they cannot use their key to duck in and out.
    • Leave a duffel bag of supplies out along with a note expressing your love for them and concern.
  9. Research locations on devices
    • Call your child’s cell phone provider to get the location of your child via their devices.
    • Be persistent with companies.  
  10. Call the police again within 72 hours
    • Follow your due-diligence and follow-up with the police. Remember “the squeaky wheel gets the grease!”
    • Contact the police after your child is found. That way, they can end any “Amber alerts” or other lookouts.

Additional Tips to Follow When Kids Run Away

  • Document every step that you take! 
    • Keep a journal with times when you called the police, when you contacted friends or other parents, when you called the school, texted your child, etc. 
    • Agencies like Child and Youth might be notified, so documenting your due-diligence will inform them of the steps you took.
  • Wait for a day or two to pass after your child returns before considering the consequences. 
    • You will be stressed out and emotional at this time. 
    • Give yourself some time to calm down before outlining what comes next for your child.
  • Contact other parents about your child running away, especially friends of your kid. 
    • By contacting other parents, you get their eyes and ears on the situation. 
    • You can also find support as you deal with a challenging crisis.

Troubled kids can run away from home for many reasons. They might be escaping consequences for their actions if they are in trouble at school, at home, or with the law. Kids might be sneaking out to engage in risky behavior. Whenever your child leaves during the night without your knowledge or runs off, think of their safety first. When you do reach out to them, voice your concern about what is happening. Let them know that you care for them and that you understand things are difficult. When your child returns home, give yourself some time to set consequences for the behavior. If your child continually runs away from home, you might need to consider residential treatment. Fire Mountain Residential Treatment in the Colorado Rockies is here when you need us. Call today at (303) 443-3683. We help both adolescents and their parents with their current family crisis. We’re here to help your family’s fire burn brightest!

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