Preventing Teens From Running Away

What should we do if we suspect that our adolescent son is making plans to run away? Is there something we can do to prevent this from happening?

It would be helpful to know exactly why you think your teen might want to run away. We aren’t familiar with the situation in your home, so it’s hard for us to respond to the fears you’ve expressed in definitive and specific terms. The fact that you’re coming to us with this question, however, indicates that there may be a serious lack of parent-child communication in your household.

Instead of operating on the basis of anxieties and vague suspicions, we’d advise you to start by addressing the issue openly. Why not come right out and ask your teenager if he’s been thinking about running away? You may not get an honest answer, but even if you don’t the non-verbal aspects of his response may give you some idea whether you’re on the right track.

If your fears are validated, you might want to take some time to ask yourself a few questions before moving any further. Is there anything about your home that might inspire an adolescent to dream of escape? Would your teen accuse you of being unfairly critical, strict, unloving, or unsupportive? If so, are his feelings justified in any way? Where there’s room for improvement on your part, be humble and sensitive enough to admit it. If you can confess your own shortcomings honestly and openly, you may be able to defuse the entire situation and put your relationship with your child on a new footing before it’s too late.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with a kid who’s simply rebellious, strong-willed, and unreasonable, and if you have reasonable cause to believe that he’s ready to put his plan into action, do what you can to make it harder for him to succeed. Limit access to vehicles and financial resources. Restrict him from associating with any friends who might be in on the plot. Depending on the severity of the case, you may also want to enlist the help and support of a trusted pastor or youth leader.

In the meantime, lovingly tell your teen that, should he ever decide to run away, you hope he’ll be wise enough to keep himself safe. Make it clear that, if this happens, you will have no choice but to immediately report him to the police as a runaway. Educate him as to the implications and ramifications of involving the authorities. This may sound cold and heartless, but he needs to be aware of the potential consequences.

If you think it would be helpful to discuss your situation with a member of our staff, please feel free to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

The New Strong-Willed Child

Why Christian Kids Rebel

Timeless Tips for Building a Strong Family

Practical Advice for Parenting Teens

If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

The Hope Line with Dawson McAllister

Young Life

Parenting Teens

Teen Rebellion

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