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Runaway Behaviors

May 23, 2024 | Blog

As the weather gets nicer and the days become longer, many caregivers are planning dinners outside, end-of-school celebrations and summer vacations. But, while some caregivers are planning graduation parties and backyard barbeques, many have a different concern – keeping their child from running away.

According to a study from the National Center for State Legislatures, 1.5 million children and adolescents run away each year.

Whether a child is gone for a night or a week, running away is a serious issue that should be addressed immediately. When a child’s whereabouts are unknown, the adults responsible for them cannot provide for their well-being and high-risk behaviors and victimization are more likely to occur in runaway scenarios.

Whether your child is a chronic runaway, or they’ve recently run away for the first time, children generally run away either to escape something, such as family problems, or to pursue something, such as drugs, a relationship or a sense of belonging in a group away from home.

These tips can help parents effectively interrupt new or chronic runaway behavior.

  • Ensure curfew expectations are well defined.
    • Curfew times and check-in expectations should be specific, for example:
      • Be home by 8:30 on school nights
      • Check-in via text after arriving at a friend’s house and every two hours until you return home
      • If you change locations, text to let me know.
    • There may be differences on weekdays and weekends but be sure to outline those specifically.
    • Identify transportation plans for when your child is in the community, as that is sometimes a barrier for children meeting curfew expectations
  • Know the who, what, when, where and why behind your child’s plans.
    • When plans are made, gather information about who will be present (including the adults responsible for supervision), where the plans will be taking place, and when.
  • Get to know peers.
    • This goes beyond learning the first names of your child’s friends. Get their full name, address, caregivers names, etc.
  • Increase your knowledge related to your child’s social media use.
    • Most runaway events are planned, and technology is the easiest way for a child to plan the event. Review your child’s social media – who do they talk to, who are they meeting up with most frequently, what locations are they checking into and posting from?
    • If you’re unfamiliar with social media, ask or do some research. New programs are developed often, so it is important to stay up to date.
    • To learn more about this topic read: How to Keep My Kids Safe Online

Running away is often a pattern of behavior and these tips can help interrupt the instances of running away.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
National Runaway Safeline

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