You hate your life. You’re thinking of running away.
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.
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.
Are You Facing Abuse?
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.
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.
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 your 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.