A child runs away from home every five minutes – yet less than half of parents have spoken to their children about running away, according to a new study.
Charity Railway Children, which supports vulnerable young people at risk on Britain’s streets, is urging parents to talk to their children about running away after research found that a fifth (17 per cent) of adults had run away during their teenage years – with 10 per cent never returning.
“Many parents don’t consider that this could happen to them – until it’s too late,” said Andy McCullough, Head of Strategy & Policy at Railway Children.
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“Children run away from home for all sorts of reasons, usually to escape things they find stressful such as problems at school or home. Those who run away often decide to do so on the spur of the moment, as a last resort. They probably haven’t thought about where they’ll go, where they’ll sleep, how they’ll get access to money or how their running away might affect their family,” added Andy.
The majority of parents questioned (95 per cent) said they would be comfortable discussing running away with their children, yet only a fifth (19 per cent) said it had occurred to them to do so.
The big question is, why are these conversations not happening?
“Some parents may be concerned that bringing up the topic could put the idea into their child’s mind, an understandable but largely unfounded concern,” argues Railway Children supporter, psychiatrist Dr Sandra Scott.
[Related article: How to talk to your kid about failure]“If your child has no intention of running away, having a conversation about it with them is not likely to make it a plausible possibility. More importantly, if they are thinking of doing so, talking to them about it gives you the opportunity to stop it before it happens.”
Dr. Scott also believes that there are misconceptions about the type of children that run away, with most parents thinking it’s those from lower-income families that are more likely to do so.“Misconceptions such as these can make parents blind to the risk factors,” she said.
“The fact is, almost as many children run away from affluent homes as from low-income households. Running away is an issue that every parent needs to know about, and every parent needs to talk about.”
[Related article: How to discuss being overweight with your child]Railway Children has teamed up with Mumsnet to launch a new website (mumsnet.com/runningaway) which offers parents expert guidance and advice to help talk to their children about this important issue.