It’s all about the kids: a column by Dr. Janet McPeek Ph.D., President of Crossroads for Youth

Runaway Prevention Month
November marks runaway prevention month, an opportune time to address an issue that is prevalent nationwide. One in seven young people between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. When youth runaway they are faced with homelessness or are often times placed in shelters. Sadly, over 50 percent of young people in shelters and on the streets report that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving and didn’t care, according to DoSomething.org.
That’s why is so important every day to strive to teach our kids their value and to learn how special, unique and cared for they are. It is also realistic to recognize that some kids and families might be going through some difficult times. There are resources available through the local schools, faith based organizations and counseling organizations. The key is to provide opportunities to express their feelings and to find solutions so that running away is not something that’s on their mind.

Warning signs that a child is considering running away include but aren’t limited to (according to kidsinthehouse.com):

  • A change in energy – if a child is more sluggish when he or she used to be quite active
  • Rebellion – acting out in school or regarding at-home responsibilities
  • Excessive saving – if you sense your child is saving money to get away

I’m sure at some point we’ve all thought about how nice it might be to get out of dodge and ‘skip life’ for a bit, but it’s important to teach youths that there are better ways to go about problem solving. Importantly, children need to feel that they’re in an environment where they’re cared for and have people – guardians, parents and mentors – that they can confide in.
With children we need to model healthy behavior and teach them to handle stress through time management, relationships with mentors and positive responses to negative events.
We all want to believe that our communities are safe all the time, and most of the time they are, but no one can control the environments they are in one hundred percent of the time. Sitting down and having honest conversations with youth about the dangers of running away may keep them safe. The best way to prevent a child from running away is to have the kind of relationship where they know that no matter how upset they may feel, or even after an argument, it’s always going to be ok/safe to come and talk to you or another adult. It’s normal for parents/guardians and kids to argue or to see things from a different perspective, but it’s crucial for children to know that nothing is worth taking off and putting themselves at risk.