Many parents admit they feel uncomfortable about how to bring up tricky topics with their children - such as how to talk about difficult conversations such as sex, death, bullying and running away from home. Indeed, as I mentioned in my previous post, we conducted research last year which revealed that almost half of British parents have never discussed the subject of running away from home with their children.
Many parents don't consider that the issue of running away from home could happen to them until it's too late. But this is not something that 'just' happens in developing countries, it is a very real issue here in the UK. Some 100,000 children run away from home every year in the UK, that's one every five minutes, and it's important to know that it can happen to anyone.
Source: Kate Maryon
Children are running away for a variety of serious issues like bullying neglect, drug and alcohol addiction, relationship difficulties, loneliness or family breakdown. We must overcome the taboo that surrounds the issue of running away from home and get people to tackle the subject early to prevent this continuing to happen on our own doorsteps. Simply talking to your children about the topic of running away from home may be all it takes to prevent them considering it and to instead talk more openly or seek help with any worries they may have.
However, I am mindful that, with the onset of technology and being constantly "connected", parents these days may have even less opportunities for face-to-face interactions to raise these essential conversations, and so as parents, we must ensure we have these conversations before it's too late.
We recently conducted a survey amongst parents to see which resources they tend to turn to help them broach tricky topics such as running away, bullying, death etc. with their children. The new research revealed that parents like using prompts such as books, magazines, TV storylines and websites to help them talk to their children about these 'tricky topics'. In particular, books were rated more useful than any other tool as a conversation starter. Reading is a great way to open up the mind, and can be a great way to help start up some of those great big 'life conversations' that we as parents sometimes just don't quite know how to broach.
On the back of these results, I've been working alongside children's author Kate Maryon, and her new book 'Invisible Girl', published last month, which depicts the story of 12 year old Gabriella who runs away from home to escape arguing parents. It's one new title which could help parents broach the subject of running away from home.
I would encourage parents to use Kate's new novel, as an opportunity to talk to their children about the topic of running away from home, as discussing it openly may be all it takes to prevent them from feeling that running away from home is their only option.
If you're unsure how to broach this with your kids, or if you're worried and would like advice from other parents, have a look at mumsnet.com/runningaway for guidance and ideas, and to talk to others who have been through the same thing. We've teamed up with Mumsnet to help families address this issue, and our long-term partners Aviva will donate £2 to Railway Children for every interaction on the site focusing on this theme, to support our continued work in the UK, helping vulnerable young people alone and at risk on Britain's streets.
Having a child run away from home is every parent's nightmare. So please, talk to your children about this issue to prevent it ever happening to you.
Railway Children helps and supports children under 16 who've run away from home, or are at risk of doing so. They also support children after they've returned home or gone back into care and help educate young people about the risks of running away and what the alternatives are.