When you were little, did you ever run away? Maybe you packed up your backpack and made it down the driveway or around the corner to your friend's backyard. But after a little while, you forgot why you were running away and it was getting dark out, so you went home.
We hope that was the last time you thought about running away because there's a big difference between thinking about running away (or walking a few blocks down the street) and actually running away.
Running away is a serious problem. According to the National Runaway Switchboard, an organization that takes calls and helps kids who have run away or are thinking of running away, 1 in 7 kids between the ages of 10 and 18 will run away at some point. And there are 1 million to 3 million runaway and homeless kids living on the streets in the United States.
In fact, most kids run away due to problems with their families. Some kids run away because of one terrible argument. Some even decide to leave without ever having a fight. They might have done something they're ashamed of, and they're afraid to tell their parents.
Other reasons kids run away include:
These are problems faced by lots of kids and teens — and there are ways to deal with all of these problems besides running away. Kids who think about running away might not know how to solve tough problems or don't have adults to help them. Sometimes a really big problem can make it seem like running away is the only choice.
Unfortunately, the problems kids hope to escape by running away are replaced by other — sometimes even bigger — problems of life on the streets.
When you think about running away, you probably imagine that there will be no more rules, no parent to tell you what to do, no more fights. Sounds great and exciting, right?
In reality, running away is anything but fun. Kids and teens who run away face new problems like not having any money, food to eat, a safe place to sleep, or anyone to look out for them.
People with no home and no money become desperate, doing anything just to meet their basic needs. Because of this, they often find themselves in risky situations that would be frightening, even for adults. Runaway kids get involved in dangerous crimes much more often than kids who live at home.
Kids who live on the streets often have to steal to meet basic needs. Many take drugs or alcohol to get through the day because they become so depressed and feel that no one cares about them. Some are forced to do things they wouldn't normally do to make money. The number of kids with HIV or AIDS and other diseases is higher on streets, too, because these kids might use IV drugs or have unprotected sex (often for money).
Let's face it — stress is a part of life, even for kids — but being able to deal with problems with confidence, hope, and practical solutions makes kids less likely to run away.
To build your problem-solving skills, try to:
It might feel like there's no way to fix the problems that are making you think about running away. If you can, tell your mom or dad how you feel. They need to know that you're upset or that you're afraid they don't love you or want you around. It may be possible to work together as a family to change things for the better. Sometimes talking with a counselor as a family can help.
If the problem is as serious as abuse and a parent is involved, then talk to a teacher or counselor at school, a good friend's parent, a close relative, or another trusted adult. Let that person help you find somewhere safe to stay. It might be hard to share this secret because you may feel ashamed or afraid of getting someone in trouble, but remember that abuse is never your fault.
Another option is to call the National Runaway Switchboard at (800) 621-4000. It's open 24 hours a day and the call is free. The switchboard operators get thousands of calls each year, many from kids who have run away or know someone who has.
If your friend is thinking about running away, warn him or her about how tough it will be to survive on the streets. Your friend is probably scared and confused. Try to be supportive and help your friend feel less alone.
Remind your friend that, whatever the problem is, there are other ways to deal with it, even if neither one of you can think of the ways right now. An adult will know how to help.
It takes courage to tell an adult that your friend is about to run away, but try to do this as soon as possible. Being a real friend doesn't mean keeping a secret when it can hurt someone. It means doing the best thing possible for your friend. And running away isn't a solution for either of you. It only leads to more problems and danger.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|KidsPeace This site is dedicated to helping kids overcome crisis.|
|National Runaway Safeline This site provides information and support for runaway and homeless kids and teens. Call: 1-800-RUNAWAY|
|Covenant House Nineline Hotline This hotline accepts calls 24 hours a day at, and offers help to runaways and other kids in crisis. Call: (800) 999-9999|
|How to Handle Abuse Child abuse is never OK. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Talking to Your Parents Sometimes you really need to talk with mom or dad. But it's not always easy. Get tips for how to have a good talk.|
|Why Am I So Sad? Feeling down? Got the blues? Everyone feels sad sometimes. Find out more in this article for kids.|
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|The Story on Stress Stress happens when you are worried or uncomfortable about something. You may feel angry, frustrated, scared, or afraid. Our article for kids will help you manage stress.|
|Living With a Single Parent Millions of kids live with just one parent. Are you one of them? Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Worry Less in 3 Steps Everyone worries, but would you like to worry less? Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Being Afraid Have you ever been afraid? Everyone gets scared sometimes. Find out more about fear in this article for kids.|
|Foster Families Some kids live with foster families, who provide a safe place for kids to be cared for. Let's find out more.|
|What Kids Who Are Moving Should Do Moving isn't easy for anyone. Get some advice in this article for kids.|
|When Your Parents Fight It's normal for parents to disagree and argue sometimes. But when parents fight, it can make kids feel upset. The good news is that usually families can work together to solve problems.|
|What Should I Do if My Family Fights? It's normal for family members to disagree once in a while. Learn how keep your cool during an argument.|
|Getting Along With Parents How can you get along better with your parents and have more fun together? Follow these five steps.|
|Talking About Your Feelings Just talking about your feelings can make you feel better.|
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