What to Do if Your Child Runs Away From Home

Don't panic if your child runs away from home. You need to stay calm and know how to act quickly. Learn more in today's article.
What to Do if Your Child Runs Away From Home
María José Roldán

Written and verified by the psychopedagogue María José Roldán.

Last update: 22 November, 2022

The worst nightmare that can happen to a parent is if their child runs away from home. When that happens, time becomes urgent and emotions run high; worry overwhelms you and you don’t know what’s happened or why. That’s why it’s important to know what to do if your child runs away from home.

There may be multiple reasons, but in reality, it usually happens because children don’t feel loved, respected, or needed by their family. If this happens to you, you’ll likely panic and may even suffer an anxiety attack. But you need to keep a cool head and think calmly and clearly.

It’s vitally important to find your child’s whereabouts as soon as possible and then talk about what happened calmly and never in front of other people. It’s not an easy task, but it’s important to be clear about what to do from the very beginning.

Sound the alarm if your child runs away from home

If your child runs away from home, don’t feel ashamed; it’s important that the people around you know about it so that they make it easier for you to find them. You need to make sure that friends and family know that your child has run away. If you think someone knows where they might be, let those people know immediately.

A teenage girl looking pensive.

Everyone should be informed to help you with the search. You can also call your child’s friends and their parents. Teens may go to a place where they think it’s safe and they may go from one friend’s house to another friend’s house so they won’t be detected.

Even if your child isn’t there, the parents of those friends should also know so they can watch for any signs that can help you find your child. Also, it’s vital to call the police as soon as possible; the first 24 hours are crucial, so provide as much information as possible about where your child might be.

Search your child’s favorite places

Your child’s best friend’s house might be a place to start looking, or a family member’s house. This is because they’ll want to get away from home, but at the same time, they need to feel safe and secure. In fact, when this happens, it’s not because they really wanted to escape but because he needed to think and calm down.

If you can’t find them in nearby places, you’ll have to think of other places that are also favorites. This could be a place outdoors to wait for you to find them while they spend some time alone.

If you don’t find him in these areas, you’ll need to raise the alarm even more. Contact the school, outside family members, and anyone else you think can help you look for or find them.

Is anything missing from home?

You also need to check your child’s clothes and see if anything important, such as a laptop or cell phone, is missing. Some teenagers impulsively don’t take anything with them. But if your child runs away from home, they may have a plan in their head.

Those who leave without anything may go to someone they know to be taken in and try to get help. On the other hand, those who do take clothes, money, or other items may be planning to go farther away for a longer period of time. Explain everything to the police so they know how to search.

Look at social media and electronic devices if your child runs away from home

Look at your child’s social media, emails, or any other means where you think there may be clues. They may leave a hidden message or, if they haven’t given it much thought, they may still give you clues.

You may find a message to a friend that tells you the location where they may be. If you think your child is speaking in code in the message, talk to the police to see if they can help you decipher it or talk directly to that friend to help you find them.

You can also look at their search history for websites they’ve visited recently to find out more. When a child runs away, if they plan to, they may have looked in Google for information to help them get more organized.

You may also be able to find them through the GPS on their cell phone or smartwatch. Use a parental control app to find out where your child is without them realizing you’re doing it.

If you don’t have it installed yet, you need to do it as soon as possible so you can know their exact position when your child runs away from home or when you can’t find them for other reasons.

A teen runaway.

If they call you, stay calm

Sometimes children, when they run away from home, call you on the phone. It may be because they’re sorry, because they’re scared to go home, or for any other reason. In any case, you need to remain calm at all times. Don’t get angry; your child needs to know that if they come home, they’ll be safe.

Don’t be critical on the phone or in text messages. Just let them know that you’re very concerned and want to know where they are. You need to make sure they’re talking freely and that it’s not a kidnapping and that they’re safe. One of the best questions you can ask is, “Do you want me to come get you?”

In short, let them understand that your house is their home and that they’ll always be safe there. That you’ll be by their side to solve any problems that exist and that, when they’re safely home, you can talk about what happened and why it happened. What matters right now is that your child gets home safe and sound. And, when they get home, listen to what they want to tell you.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.