After they return
Welcome your child back
When your child returns home after running away, let the police know so that they can stop searching. They will need to meet with you at your home or the police station, to verify the information and close the file.
Very important: Allow yourself and your teenager some time to rest. Start by taking care of their basic needs (eating, washing, sleeping). Your child may have had a negative experience. They may need healthcare services. Your sympathetic welcome will encourage them to talk about the experience.
Your child’s return home is a major source of relief. Let them know this. On the other hand, their return can also trigger many other emotions. Find a moment together to discuss what their running away has done to everyone. This moment of sharing will help you prepare for the next conversations in a calm and open way. If your child is staying at a rehabilitation centre, inform the youth workers that they have returned to you. They will be glad to hear from you. Together you can arrange for the child’s return to the centre.
Understand why the young person ran away
You enjoyed a moment of calm with your teenager. When you are ready, it is important to talk to them about why they ran away. To prevent a repeat occurrence, you need to understand the cause(s) and find workable solutions.
The goal is to understand the meaning behind their running away. What needs did it fulfill? This will help you find other ways to address your child’s needs. Sometimes the young person knows why they ran away. In this case it is easier to find a solution. But sometimes the cause is unconscious. In other words, they do not know why they ran away.
Talk about your concerns. Express what you think about their decision to run away. Tell them how you understand it. Of course, give them a chance to talk about what they experienced while they were away. Respect their choice not to tell you everything. Your teenager may be afraid of making you worry or of being judged. You also need to set your own limits on what you are willing to hear. Certain activities related to drug use or sexuality may be difficult for a parent to hear. You can suggest that your child talk to someone else about these things, such as a youth worker from a community organization.
To help you with your conversations, here are some reasons why a young person may run away:
When they are experiencing…
An unexpected event or change that has upset them
A failure or conflict
An intense emotion
When they want to…
Enjoy their freedom and go on an adventure.
Pursue their dream and experience new things.
Have a new way of life.
When they are looking to…
Explore their identity.
Show that they are self-reliant and independent.
When they feel they have to…
Escape from their problems.
Rebel against a situation.
Cope with a difficult or painful situation (e.g., break-up, failure or conflict).
Looking for alternatives to running away
You talked about the reasons why your teenager ran away. Now you can discuss possible solutions. To do this, it is important to talk about your limits, what you can and cannot accept. This discussion may be difficult. You can bring it up in stages and at different times. Take breaks and share quality time with your teenager. To find the best solution, you will need to go through trial and error. This is a challenging step, but it will help prevent your child from running away again. In any case, your child must feel that the door is open in your family. They need to know they can always come home. This is a good way to show them they are always welcome.
After all these conversations, it may turn out that returning home does not seem to be the best solution. In this case, you can agree with your teenager on various options:
You may be worried about your teenager’s situation. Their safety or development may be in jeopardy. Institutional services might be necessary. In such a case:
You can submit a request under the Act Respecting Health Services and Social Services.
You can request an intervention under the Youth Protection Act.
Depending on the situation, the Director of Youth Protection (DYP) may recommend different approaches:
- Psychosocial care or support
- Rapid and intensive intervention
- Housing for the short, medium or long term
If you are considering contacting the DYP, you should first contact the Report Reception and Processing Department, which will assess your situation.