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?