You hate your life. You’re thinking of running away.
Is it a Good Idea to Run Away From Home?
First, we’re first going to be a little honest here. It may be really, really difficult to run away from home for good. While the idea sounds great in theory, reality may be wildly different than what you’re imagining.
For one thing, living on the streets is tough. Single adolescents or teens sleeping in public places are easy targets for dangerous people. Homeless men and women may try stealing from you. You may be exposed to drug addicts also living on the streets. You may be vulnerable to assault, rape, or even murder. Living on the streets also exposes you to the elements. Freezing temperatures or blazing heat can be physically dangerous. And many teens who run away end up engaging in prostitution or drug-dealing because they’ve become desperate for food or a place to stay.
One thing that many teens don’t consider is whether running away will put them in a better, or worse, situation than they are in now.
Why Do Kids Run Away?
Many teens run away because of family issues. Granted, some teens live in homes that are unsafe. If you are facing physical or sexual abuse at home, you may decide it’s better to face the risk of danger on the streets than the guaranteed abuse you’re facing every day at home.
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Are You Facing Abuse At Home?
While the best thing to do in situations of abuse is to call the police or Child Protective Services (CPS), you can also just tell a trusted adult – your friend’s parents, or your teacher at school, or a school counselor. They will do whatever they can to improve the situation – whether it’s finding an alternate family for you to live with or doing something else about the situation. It’s important to remember that while your life at home may be terrible, living on the streets is not the solution. Nor may it actually be any better, with all the potential risks of abuse from strangers.
Until things become safer at home, try to see if a family member (like a trusted grandparent, or a relative you feel comfortable with) might be willing to take you in. Or, perhaps you can ask your friend’s parents if you can stay with them for a while.
Are You Fighting With Your Parents?
Other times, teens get into minor conflicts with their parents and consider running away as a sort of revenge. This is a bad idea. In all honesty, although your parents might get worried or even terribly distraught if you run away, the person who will be suffering the most is you.
If you’re in a conflict with your parents, running away might feel like a good option. This is especially true for those facing repeated family conflicts or a toxic home environment. However, running away will ultimately make you vulnerable to ending up in an unsafe situation. More often than not, you could end up in a worse situation by leaving.
There are few well-meaning people who will provide you with a place to live in an environment that is better than the one that your parents are already providing. It is not uncommon for teens to become homeless or live in an unsafe environment after running away from home. So why do teens run away? They may not consider the risks that come with doing so.
Alternatives to Running Away From Home
Instead of running away from home, try these alternative methods to find peace with your situation or create a comfortable environment for yourself at home.
Talk to a Close Friend
While a friend may not be able to help you escape your situation, they can provide comfort and reassurance. Spending time with a friend will allow you to get out of the house and enjoy the company of someone outside of your family. Teens threaten to run away because they feel unhappy in their current living situation, so finding a support system outside of home can help.
Get Some Exercise
Exercising is an excellent way to channel negative emotions. If you’re facing a difficult situation at home, exercising can help you deal with these emotions and also provide an escape from your home life. By spending time at the gym, out on a run, or playing a sport, you’ll have time away from your family to clear your head.
Find Something Positive to Read
Reading can be an excellent way to escape life. Immerse yourself in an entertaining and positive story in order to distract yourself from your current situation. There are thousands of books to read, and you’ll never run out of new stories to enjoy.
Find Something Happy and Uplifting
Find something positive to focus on outside of your home life. This could be a funny TV show or entertaining videos. You could even spend time at a local animal shelter or Cat Cafe to enjoy the presence of animals.
Gratitude Can Help
It’s easy to lose sight of what you have to be grateful for when in a negative situation. Try to find aspects of your life that you are grateful for and recognize the ways in which your situation could be worse. By focusing on the positives, your situation will become more bearable.
Listen to Music
Listening to music can be one of the best escapes. It’s best to listen to positive music so that you can focus on getting into a better headspace.
Write a List of Pros and Cons
If you’re wondering “Should I run away from home?”, focus on the pros and cons of what would really happen if you did. Chances are, you don’t have many resources to fall back on if you decide to leave home. Be realistic with yourself as to whether or not life would actually be better if you run away.
Don’t Hold It In
When in a difficult situation, it’s important to express your feelings. If you’re struggling with conflicts at home or a toxic home life, allow yourself to feel all of the negative emotions associated with this situation. Whether you need to cry or punch your pillow, let yourself move through these emotions so that you can move past them.
There are mental health resources for teens that can help you manage the difficult emotions that come with family conflict. Teen mental health resources such as therapists can help you discover mental health activities for teens that can help you process your emotions and understand the situations you encounter with family.
If you’re wondering what to do when your teenager runs away, offering these sources of support can help encourage them to help create a manageable environment at home.
Instead of running away, talk to your parents about getting help. If you find that you’re constantly fighting with your parents, or that your home environment isn’t an emotionally healthy place for you to be in, or you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, behavioral issues, or other mental health issues, you might benefit from therapy.
Consider a Residential Treatment Center
If things have gotten really bad, you might want to ask your parents to look into a residential treatment center (RTC) for teens. Many teens who want to run away find that they actually like their RTC more than they like living at home. An RTC will also provide individual and family therapy, meals, comfortable living accommodations (usually), and a transition plan for when you discharge home. You’ll stay with other struggling teens who are in similar situations as you. Some RTCs also specialize in substance abuse; these are drug rehab centers. While RTCs are not free, many times they are covered by insurance. Try to see if you can attend a teen mental health, addiction, or dual diagnosis RTC.
The National Runaway Safeline
If you’re still reading and shaking your head (no, no, and nope) to all these suggestions, then we suggest you call the National Runaway Safeline. This Hotline is open 24/7. If you’re still considering running away, call them first at 1-800-786-2929. Or, you can visit the Safeline website at: http://www.1800runaway.org.
The National Runaway Safeline will help you find runaway shelters near you or other safe living situations. They will also offer free parental communication support – whether you have run away or not. NRS will help you speak to your parents via a 3-way conference call or even deliver a message to them on your behalf.
If you are on the street and need help, or want to come home and don’t know where to start, they can also help. Their Home Free program gives adolescents and teens a free Greyhound bus ticket to come back to their parent or legal guardian while arranging a better living situation than the one you left, such as an alternative living arrangement (ALA) if your home situation is not a safe one.
If you’re facing a difficult situation at home, running away might feel like your best option. You might feel as though you’re all alone and need to figure things out by yourself. However, running away from home is rarely the best option, especially without any support.
Try to make peace with your situation and consider all of your options. If you reall are trying to figure out how to run away from home, utilize one of the mental health resources for teens listed above to do so safely. Remember that you’re never truly alone and there is always someone that will help you, as long as you ask for it.
Ready to Get Help for Your Child?Evolve offers CARF and Joint Commission accredited treatment for teens with mental health disorders and/or substance abuse. Your child will receive the highest caliber of care in our comfortable, home-like residential treatment centers. We offer a full continuum of care, including residential, partial hospitalization/day (PHP), and intensive outpatient treatment (IOP).
Originally from California, Yael combines her background in English and Psychology in her role as Content Writer for Evolve Treatment Centers.