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Thousands of children run away from home every year. Not all decisions of leaving the place of residence lasting several days end in a happy end and return to parents.
Is there a way to do this? The "prevention is better than cure" principle also works here. It is extremely important to pay attention to maintaining good contacts at every stage of life. A child deprived of support, love, respect, trust will react in difficult moments with aggression, anxiety and escape from the problems that life brings.
Sosrodzice.pl: Is a child's escape always a "notice me" signal?
Anna Nita, psychologist at the ITAKA Center for Missing People Foundation: Escape is a signal that a teenager is experiencing something badly and cannot or is afraid to talk about it. The motivation that many teenage refugees talk about is the desire to draw the attention of parents to the fact that they can no longer cope, can not cope, they need help. Most often, when help comes and the teenager feels understood, escapes will end.
Sosrodzice.pl: Can you prevent the child from escaping?
Anna Nita: The best prevention of escape is good communication in the family. If parents spend a lot of time talking to children, if they are not evaluators, but listen carefully to what the teenager tells them, set boundaries adapted to his age and create an atmosphere of acceptance, escape will not happen. Modeling also plays an important role here - if parents can constructively and without strong emotions solve problems among themselves and with other people, they will probably also learn to do this for children.
Sosrodzice.pl: How should parents behave whose children return after a few days away from home?
Anna Nita: The teenager comes back with a great sense of guilt, even if he does not show it. He expects punishment. Therefore, the parent should first let the child understand that he is happy about his return, that his safety and presence are the most important. To ask what happened to the child or why it escaped, the time will come later. However, this first meeting plays a key role: the positive emotions and joy of the parent give the teenager to understand that he can be accepted and loved even if he does something wrong and can result in the fact that the next time he will feel angry or facing a problem, it will come with it to a parent instead of running away.
Sosrodzice.pl .: How many escapes from home are recorded each year?
Anna Nita: According to police statistics, more than 4,200 teenagers run away from home every year. However, it is estimated that there may be several times more, but they are not reported anywhere, e.g. because of shame or because parents are not interested in the child's fate much.
Sosrodzice.pl: At what age do children usually plan to escape?
Anna Nita: Escapes start at junior high school when a child enters teens. At ITACE, we have reported even 11-year-olds escaping, but 16, 17-year-olds escape the most. This may be due to the fact that it is easier for them to get along outside the home, more often they meet people with whom they can take refuge.
Sosrodzice.pl: More often boys run away?
Anna Nita: 75% of the refugees are girls. Girls are often treated more severely in their families, they are allowed less independence than boys, which can lead to escapes. It is also easier for them to find shelter, they run away to their partners, often much older. Sometimes, unfortunately, such escapes are associated with human trafficking, when a girl believes in the good intentions of a man or "aunt" who wants to take care of her and provide shelter.
Sosrodzice.pl: Does escaping a child always mean a mistake on the part of parents?
Anna Nita: The error suggests that there is one person guilty of the whole situation, and yet every fugitive has a story and his decision to escape was influenced by several factors, both his school, family and peer situation. Sometimes a parent just doesn't really have the opportunity to take good care of their children because they are struggling with their own difficult situation, e.g. how lonely and have to earn a living by working for 12 hours. It may also be depressed and not fully accessible to the child. It's hard to talk about an error then. It is not about looking for the guilty, but about the best help, and this sometimes involves supporting a parent in fulfilling his function.
Sosrodzice.pl: A child of "so-called strict parents" who wants to have everything under control, or maybe parents who are not interested in children as much as they need, will be more likely to escape?
Anna Nita: Both situations can end in an escape. Strict parents can meet with a very fierce battle of the child for their individuality and independence, also in the form of escape from home. Unattended parents' children will want to get their attention, sometimes provocative behavior or just moving away from home. He will check if they will look for him. That is why the best thing to do in raising a teenager is to keep the golden mean, set boundaries and rules appropriate to age and allow for responsibility where the teenager has proven that he can take care of himself. If there are no problems with learning, it makes no sense to check his daily lessons.
Sosrodzice.pl: Thank you for the conversation