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Running away

Runaway teenage girl sitting on the street.Many teens think about running away from home at some point. If you are thinking about running away, you can get help, and you can learn more about life as a runaway.

If you are thinking about running away arrow. top

Running away comes with a lot of possible problems. Teens who run away face a high risk of living on the streets, going hungry, and other serious worries. If you are thinking about running away, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Get help

Are you thinking about running away? Are you already on the streets? If so, contact 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929) for services and support. If you or a friend needs a safe place to go, you also can text the word SAFE to 69866. And if you have run away and want to go home, you may be able to get a free bus ticket.

  • Are there things you can do to improve the situation at home?
  • What would make it okay to stay at home?
  • Where will you stay if you leave?
  • What will you do for money and food?
  • Is running away safe?
  • Who can you count on for help?
  • Are you being realistic about what life would be like if you leave?
  • What are your other options?
  • If you end up in trouble, who will you call?
  • If you want to go home, what will happen?

If you are thinking about running away, contact the National Runaway Safeline for help. You can contact them by phone, email, live chat, or bulletin board. The service is free, anonymous, and open 24 hours a day.

The safeline can help you talk through what's going on. If staying home is your best option, they can help you deal with problems there. If you are going to leave, they can help you with possible ways to stay safe. Watch a video to learn more about what happens when you contact the safeline.

Signs that a friend may run away arrow. top

Signs that someone may be thinking about running away include:

  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Problems with school attendance or behavior
  • Starting to carry lots of money and possibly even asking you to hold some of it
  • Giving away clothing and other valuable items
  • Saying things like, "Do you think anyone would miss me if I leave home?"

Running away is serious. Keep reading below to learn how to help a friend who is thinking about running away.

Some of the items above could be signs of other problems, such as depression. If you think a friend may be depressed or having other problems, ask. You could really help someone. If a problem is too much for you to handle alone, make sure to talk to an adult.

How to help a friend who is thinking about running away arrow. top

You can be a great friend to someone who is thinking about running away. You can't solve the person's problems, but you can offer support. Below are some ways you can help.

Ask questions to help your friend think through running away. See the section above for a list of questions to ask.

Talk to your friend about life on the street. Being homeless can be extremely scary and dangerous. For example:

  • Young people who are homeless are more likely to be victims of crime and sexual abuse.
  • Around 1 out of 10 young people at runaway or homeless youth shelters have traded sex for food, a place to stay, or other things. Around 1 out of 3 young people who live on the streets have done this.
  • Teens who run away have higher rates of depression, alcohol, and drug problems.
  • One out of 4 young people who live on the street had a serious health problem in the past year.
  • Girls who run away are more likely to get pregnant.

See if your friend can get help. Encourage your friend to talk to her or his parents. If that doesn't work, suggest that your friend talk to other relatives, a teacher, a school counselor, or another trusted adult.

See if your friend can stay with you for a couple of days. Things at your friend's house may calm down during that time. Or your friend may be able to find another place to stay if going home is not possible.

Why do teens run away? arrow. top

Blonde runaway girl with a trash bag.The most common reason that teens run away is family problems. Family problems might include fights over things like money, grades, or strict rules. Keep reading below to learn about handling family problems.

Teens also may run away to try to escape worries like having problems with school, being bullied, coming out as gay, or dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Alcohol or drugs also can play a role in teens’ running away.

Often, teens may run away because of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse at home. If a friend is being abused, you can get help. Talk to your parents or another trusted adult, the police, local child protective services, or Childhelp at 800-4-A-CHILD (800-422-4453). Encourage your friend to reach out to a trusted adult like a teacher, counselor, neighbor, or clergy person. Offer to go along for support.

If you are facing abuse, please get help from a trusted adult. You also can learn more about abuse.

Running away and family problems arrow. top

Sometimes, girls want to leave home because of family problems. A girl may feel that her parents or other caregivers have unfair demands or rules. Or she may feel like they don't get her or don't take her seriously.

If you are thinking about running away because of family problems, see if you can work on your relationship with your parents or caregivers. Here are some tips you can try:

  • Set aside some time to talk every day. You can even talk about just small things to start to connect better.
  • Do things together, like running errands or watching a movie.
  • Say what you think and need. Remember that adults can't read your mind.
  • Have patience. Good communication takes time and effort.
  • Work together to think up possible solutions to problems.
  • Make a list of changes you want to see. Sometimes it's easier to write things down.
  • Be willing to compromise. It's better to come away with part of what you want than to be stuck in a fight.
  • Try to find a time and place with few distractions if you have something important to discuss.
  • Use resources in your community when you need help working out family problems. Ask a teacher or school counselor for suggestions.

You can learn more about dealing with family issues in our section on relationships.

If trying to improve your relationship doesn't work, you can contact the National Runaway Safeline at 800-RUNAWAY (800-786-2929). They can help you work through your problems and even set up conference calls with your parents, you, and the safeline. The safeline is open 24 hours a day, confidential, and free.


Content last reviewed January 07, 2015
Page last updated February 19, 2015