Robbie covers his ears because he’s tired of hearing his parents tear each other apart with their words. The looming divorce and his forever-changed life are weighing on him, so he picks up the phone and dials 1-800-RUNAWAY. Melissa received the news that her mom will say “I do” to husband No. 2, so she went to 1800RUNAWAY.org to talk to somebody about her concerns via live chat. Joey just can’t manage to get along with his step brother, and it’s enough to make him want to leave home. Before he does so, he goes to the National Runaway Safeline (NRS) online bulletin boards to see if anybody can help him through this.
Each year, NRS analyzes information collected from its free, anonymous and confidential connections with youth in crisis and learns that family dynamics, which are problems similar to what Robbie, Melissa and Joey reported, is consistently the No.1 reason for their distress. In 2012, family dynamics was again the most reported issue at 29 percent.
Often kids run away from home to remove themselves from an immediately painful situation, but with no plans for what to do next. NRS is a resource for these youth and they can talk about their situation confidentially without fear of judgment. Reversely, parents or family members who recognize there is a problem that may encourage their child to run away, can also contact NRS for help. Calls, live chat and bulletin boards are handled by staff and more than 150 volunteers, who have completed a 40-hour training program before making their first connection. NRS answers the call for help by listening and discussing viable options.
Problems that fall in the bucket of family dynamics can sometimes be addressed with better communication among family members. Runaway prevention is key, so here are10 simple family communication tips for parents, which may help at home before things get out of hand.
1. Set aside time to talk.
2. Speak in a calm voice.
3. Say what you mean and be prepared to listen.
4. Try not to interrupt the other person.
5. Avoid sarcasm, whining, threats, yelling, demeaning comments or making personal attacks.
6. Don't think your answer is the only answer.
7. Be willing to compromise.
8. If things get too heated, take a break and come back to the discussion later.
9. Acknowledge that you are in this together.
10. Have patience! Good communication takes time and effort.
This is a short list among many tidbits of advice to help guide families. Do you have other suggestions? We invite you to share your experiential wisdom with others by participating in NRS’ Youth and Parent Tip Campaign 2013. NRS is asking for tips for youth and parents from youth and parents, which can be submitted at 1800RUNAWAY.org. An expert panel will select and feature the most helpful tips as a resource on the website beginning in November, which is National Runaway Prevention Month. Please help us, help others by sharing your knowledge.