Runaway children are regarded as serious social problem. For runaway children, the main problem is family matters like neglecting children, physical or sexual abuse, family violence and family substance (drugs or alcohol) abuse. However, it is not always that children who runaway are from an abusive home, sometimes it is simply because they don't like the life style and regulation of family or it becomes boring for them. These all problems lead children to depression, anxiety and at last hopelessness and forced to runaway from home. Runaway children are not bad but the decision they make is bad that they usually take quickly without thinking about the future consequences. Because runaway children are unable to face the pressure of the problem surrounding them and to escape from it, they run away from home.
It is also necessary to know that not a single child runs away from home without having contact with other person who has already had experience about running away from home. This kind of company influences more over the mind of child and when condition comes into the life that leads them to depression and anxiety, that time influence makes them to runaway from home.
Other reasons that can make a child to runaway from home are following:
Constant quarrels of parents causes child to feel insecure.
Sibling rivalry or arrival of new child.
Fear of physical danger for wrong doing.
Failure or fewer grades in examination or test paper.
To accompany a friend in distress.
All children are naturally insecure and immature emotionally as it is a part of growing process. Each day they become more secure when family is a close knit one with proper freedom for communication and to express their emotions. But if family fails to meet the love for children, children become unstable and try to escape from that atmosphere to get freedom. However, after running away from home, they feel completely lonely and without support of family. They feel guilt for running away from home and then decide to come back to home. Usually period of running away from home doesn't remain for long time. But when it becomes habitual then it is advised to consult with psychiatrics for psychotherapy.
Runaway can be of four categories.
Running to children are those who are running from home in search of excitement of life like limitless pleasures, instant gratification and freedom. These children leaves home without any reason mentioned above.
Running from children are those who run away from home to escape from negative within home like physical and sexual abuse, financial hardship, neglect of alcoholic parents or stepparent. These children run away not to look for excitement of life but to look for a life that is tolerable. These children have no desire to return home to the same environment of neglecting parents.
Throw away children are not those who have run away from home because of their own desire or to escape from problem of family but they are forced to leave because of intense alienation with their family. These children are engaged more in antisocial works and criminal acts.
Forsaken children are those who are forced to leave the home because of inability of their family to support them financially and this kind is seen in the family with large number of members. These children have little or no emotional, social and economic support in family. These children feel themselves victimized and poor self-concepts.
Here we will be discussing causes, signs and symptoms related to psychological problems like depression, anxiety, drug addiction, etc. seen in runaway children. As we have already discussed above that children are emotionally immature and so they are sometime sad or depressed but it doesn't mean that they have depression as disease. If symptoms persist two or more weeks and interfere with social life, school activities and family life, it can be said that a child may have depression. Usually, depression in children is diagnosed when there is evidence of change in behavior like anger or acting out. Depression in children has major symptoms like sadness, feeling of hopelessness and changes in mood. Sometime depression runs in family as genetical problem.
Signs and symptoms of depression can be as following:
Anger or irritability
Withdrawal of social life or activity
Persistent feeling of sadness and hopelessness or guilt
Feeling of rejection
Increased or decreased appetite
Insomnia (sleeplessness) or excessive sleep
Crying and or sudden outburst of inappropriate words
Fatigue or tiredness or low energy
Unable to concentrate in particular thing like study
Thoughts of death or suicide
Different complaints like stomachache, headache and these complaints are irresponsive to medicines.
Most children will manifest different symptoms at different time and mostly suffer from social life withdrawal, less interest in school activities or a change in appearance. Sometimes children suffering from depression may start alcohol, drugs or other things to get relief from stress especially when they are above 12 years. Children who have history of family violence, physical and sexual abuse and also suffer from depression are at risk for suicide. These children have unstable mood that makes them to runaway from home to be free from depressive thoughts and surroundings causing them to be depressed. When children runaway from home, they are not under the burden of certain regulations of the family and they are free to do anything especially drug addiction is the major problem in these children. They start to take drugs to calm their mind as treatment for anxiety and depression. After some period of time it turns into a habit that is drug addiction or abuse. At least half of children, who are drug addict, they are in depression, attention deficit disorder, post-traumatic stress and other psychological problems.
Signs that may indicate about a child who is drug addict are of following but these are not limited to: change in friends, lying, stealing, long periods of staying away from home, problem with family relationship, confused and unable to understand or unconscious, drastic change in behavior and decreased school performance.
But symptoms of drug addiction are different depending on the drug being abused. However, some common symptoms can be seen like anxiety, depression (on drug withdrawal), instability of mood, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramp or diarrhea, tremor and hallucination. Some of them are seen on withdrawal of drug and some are seen at prolong use of drug.
When you find your child using drugs and alcohol, it is advised to act soon; longer the child abuses, there are high chances of addiction. Individual should be careful while holding child with drug abuse otherwise it may hurt their feelings and may runaway from home. It is better to consult with psychiatrist or to rehabilitation consultant.
There are many other consequences related to runaway as they need to survive and away from home they will do anything to survive from panhandling (begging) to prostitution and some get involve in drug supplying or pornographic movies. Due to these kinds of activities there are high chances of HIV infection, malnutrition, heart infection like infective endocarditis (especially in drug addicts who use injection for drug into veins), other sexually transmitted diseases, robbery and sexual assaults.
Some steps that can prevent or decrease chances of runaway are following:
Though, these steps are not working for all as it depends on the level of trust and they are only suggestions, these measures are preferred than a cure.
Never challenge to a child for runaway.
Never use negative feelings or thoughts toward child that may indicate that you do not respect child.
Never raise your voice when your child is raising voice.
Stay calm and quite, have eye contact and give no response when child is angry or shouting until child is calm.
Never interrupt when your child is saying or expressing something even though you are not ready to agree with them until he or she is done.
Never use negative words like liar, selfish, immature, childish, cruel, stupid etc. as these words will hurt them and make them to think worse about themselves and about you.
Never neglect them or scold when they are wrong but explain them in what way they were wrong and help them to correct their mistakes.
Never use any kind of drugs or alcohol in front of children as it may attract their thoughts toward it and make them to follow you even though you may not have thought.
Give children equal chance to speak and to express their opinion and if you are not agree, simply explain them what can be consequences for that and if you are agree, do not let them do what they want.
Get professional's advice if your child is demanding and threatening that they should be allowed to do whatever they want.
Help your children to learn to be responsible for their deeds.
Protect your children from feeling of loneliness and isolation.
Make the situation where children are able to learn to take positive decisions.
Encourage your children to try to succeed even they fail to perform some activity or examination or test papers.
Seek counseling or treatment for any instability of emotion or mood (depression, anxiety etc) or change in behavior that may interfere with the social life.
Running away solves nothing and so many teens learn that they are not safer on streets than they were with their parents or guardian .Runaway children usually turn home after one or two days as they felt lack of economic and residential support. When they return home, it advised not to scold them or to be angry on them but receive them with love and have sympathy for them. Returned runaway children already have emotional trauma and feeling of guilt of running away from home. Ask gently what make them to run away, where they went, and so on to find out the mistake and to correct them explaining them difficulties that may come into their lives after running away from home. For such children who return home, the best treatment modality is TLC (tender loving care) and after sometime that trauma will heal and there won't be any serious consequences.
But when this becomes habitual to runaway from home even in small matter, it is better to consult with mental health professional and help to evaluate the conflict they have. Or if there is any psychological problem like depression, it is advised to start medication with loving care and helps to change the atmosphere that makes them depressed. If it is because of drug addiction, it is advised to join rehabilitation programs.
It is always better to take preventive measures that may help to avoid unpleasant reality of running away from home and then to face the difficulties of this brutal world.
One simple way to help children to prevent runaway is to communicate, listen, help, understand and try to solve the problem.
Though runaway has become a serious problem, we as adults are able to control it by understanding the heart of children and giving them loving care. It is possible to change the way of thinking and behavior and emotion status of children while they are growing.