Runaway thoughts

This blog post is by Nicola Baird sharing ideas about thrifty, creative and eco-friendly ways to raise children. This post is written because Aviva (the insurance/pension company) has promised to donate £2 to the charity Railway Children for any Mumsnet linked blog that focuses on run away children. You can raise even more for the charity if you comment on this post – so just scroll down. Thank you and here’s to a safe new year.  For more info about my book Homemade Kids, with lots of ideas about parenting click here.

Near where I live in London there are an endless shuffle of posters on lamp posts asking for passers-by to help find lost cats (please check your sheds) and lost dogs too (though they may have been stolen). Only once have I seen a poster for a lost human – and I think that was an April Fool – but it certainly disturbed my youngest daughter who hadn’t realised that humans could be lost.

Turns out that:

It’s estimated that a child runs away from home or care every five minutes in the UK

In a recent survey, one in 11 teenagers aged 14 to 16 admitted to having run away overnight at some stage in their life

It’s impossible to know the true scale of the problem: two-thirds of runaways aren’t reported as missing to the police, and many are too vulnerable or scared to seek official help

It’s estimated 2,000 children will run away over Christmas

There’s lots of info on the charity Railway Children and the work they do here

Sometimes running away must seem like the only option – but the charity’s research shows that many of the young people who do this very often end up trapped by drink and drugs. And worse, they go invisible – us lot stop noticing their age or their pain. And if we do, we walk on by, fearful of getting involved. That’s me anyway.

One of the toughest things a parent has to do is put up with difficult behaviour from the people they share their home with. Teens of 14 up aren’t so easy to negotiate with, and few are willing to back away from an argument if they feel it’s not their fault.

Blame the mum
In comedian Miranda Hart’s new book Is it just me?  she says “blame the mother” (in a tickle-your-ribs kind of way) for causing family mayhem, especially at Christmas. It got me thinking about how mothers have been the force behind so many domestic dramas – from foot binding to misogyny. From arranged marriages to negative body image. As cultural keepers some women have the expertise to make a home a hell even while smiling.

I’m not ruling dads out of the blame by the way, just thought I’d let them stay mum (silent) for this post.

Running away could be a wake up call for all the family – that things have to change, that the adults need to give more slack or change the boundaries or just tough it out for another year or so. It seems terrible that running away from one set of familial hassles can fast track a teenager into a life of drink and drugs to which it can be just about impossible to come back.

Over to you – who to love bomb?
Aviva has promised to donate another £2 for each comment and also for any tweets you send (handle is @RailwayChildren then please use #runningaway), or mention on Facebook.  Aviva will donate up to £200,000 by the end of 2013 as part of the campaign – so get writing now (please!). So my question to you is – what would or could you do to convince an at-the-end-of-her-tether mum (or family) to keep peace with their troublesome teenager? Mums of toddlers need time off, do mums of teenagers need this too?

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5 Comments on “Runaway thoughts”


  1. Thank you for this post Nicola, and for helping to draw attention to this issue.

    As a mother of a now 14 year old myself, I would say that more than ever, it’s about very carefully picking your battles. Stick to your guns on matters of safety (theirs or anyone else’s), but give them some slack on the things that don’t really matter, such as keeping their room tidy. If they feel you are on their case about everything, they’re more likely to ignore everything you say. Also, it’s easy to forget when they’re that age and are becoming so independent, that they still need lots of love, and those positive comments and encouragement about the things they do well. And most importantly, they need to be listened to – give them the time and really listen.


  2. Some teens might use running away as a coping strategy to lots of different issues, not just family problems. You would hope that your child would know that you’d want them back no matter what, but that 2/3 of runaway children aren’t even reported as missing by those who are supposed to be responsible for their care and welfare is truly shocking. Well done for raising awareness of this very important issue.

    • homemadekids Says:

      Anna, thanks for having a look at my post and commenting on the runaway issue. It’s upsetting isn’t it the way families can completely fall apart to the extent of not seeming to care about a runaway child. Nicola


  3. […] Another post on this topic by me – runaway thoughts – is here. […]


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