Friday, April 18, 2008

Sue Scheff - Teen Runaways - What Parents Need to Know

What Parents Need to Know

In the event that your teen runs away from home, the CYH suggests the following strategies for coping and locating your teen:

Try to stay calm. Remember, most runaways return of their own accord.
Find out what you can about your teen leaving. Was it planned or impulsive? Did he or she go off with friends? Did your teen leave a note? What did he or she take with him or her?
Work out whether you think your teen is likely to be safe. Think about where he or she could run to and what you know about why he or she left.

Contact your teen's friends or the friends' parents. If your teen is with friends, let the friends know that you are worried and that you want to talk with your teen about what is upsetting him or her. Don't leave messages that are threats.

Be prepared to make some changes. If no changes are made to make the situation better, your teen will be likely to run again. You may need a third person to "bridge" any conversation in the beginning.

The fact that you are looking for your teen is reassurance that you care. It doesn't mean that you have to give in on everything but that you want to discuss ways to make life better for you all.

Have an open-door attitude to your teen's return.

If you can't find a reasonable explanation for your teen leaving and you can't assure yourself that he or she is safe, contact your local police.

The North American Missing Children Association says that developing a strong foundation of open communication with your child is the key to preventing most runaway cases. Try these tips to improve your relationship with your child:

Pay attention. When your child is talking with you, listen. Don't just nod your head while you're watching television, reading the paper or using your computer. Don't just pretend to listen - kids know the difference.

Give respect. Acknowledge and support your child's struggle to grow to maturity.

Understand. Try to sympathize with what your child is going through. Look at life - at least occasionally - from his or her point of view. Remember that when you were his or her age, your ideas seemed to make sense to you.

Don't lecture. All children hate to be lectured, especially teens. But all kids respond to clear information and direction, most of all when they know that the questions they ask will be answered.

Don't label. The throwing around of useless labels will only confuse the real issues that you wish to address.

Discuss feelings. Talk about what you, as a parent, feel and what you need. Allow your child to talk about his or her feelings, too.

Create responsibility. Give your child choices, not orders. Help him or her to understand the consequences of his or her actions.

Give positive praise. Describe your child's positive and negative behavior and how it affects others. Be specific, and give praise to reward good behavior. Do this at least as often, if not more so, than you criticize behavior that you don't like.
Stop hassling your child. Asking your child too many questions often shuts off information. Give him or her the opportunity to volunteer his or her thoughts and feelings while you show a sincere interest, without probing.

Don't always give the answers. You want your child to be able to find his or her own answers or solutions to problems. You can help by not giving your child the answers all of the time.

Use Teamwork. Work together with your child to evaluate the problems and find a mutually agreeable solution.

Provide support. You must tell your child that you will always love him or her, no matter what.

Find out more - on Teen Runaways