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Supporting Your Teen After They’ve Tried to Run Away


teenage girl being comforted by mother after trying to run away

Adolescence is a challenging time in a young person’s life. With it comes many difficult lessons that must be learned, shifting hormones, a whole slew of emotions that can be hard to navigate, and a newfound need for autonomy. Teenagers are notoriously recognized as highly emotional and impulsive beings, with good reason. The prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that reigns rational thought, executive planning, and impulse control) does not reach its full development until age twenty-five, at the earliest. This means that teenagers innately process, problem solve, and make decisions using their amygdala (the area of the brain that is most closely associated with impulsivity, aggression, emotion, and instinctive behavior). Each teen will have a nuanced way of processing, integrating, and/ or internalizing the experiences that arise during adolescence. Many teenagers rely on ineffective, outdated coping strategies that no longer effectively serve them, and can lead them to make hasty, unhelpful, and in some cases dangerous choices, such as running away from home. 

What To Do

Fortunately, there are many ways to help support your teenager after they have tried to run away. It is imperative to bear in mind that every teenager is different and will respond distinctly to various supportive tactics. Consider the following suggestions:

  1. Have compassion: your child attempting to run away is essentially a non-verbal cry for help. While the act of running away can be incredibly dangerous, do your best to come at the situation from a place of deep compassion as opposed to anger, judgement, frustration, etc.
  2. Mistakes are part of the learning process: every teenager will make mistakes; use them as an opportunity for growth.
  3. Talk about it: although you do not want to scare your child, it is important for your child to understand the possible consequences and severity of his or her actions. 
  4. Establish and enforce boundaries: implementing clear boundaries at home can help your teen learn what is expected of them and reinforce consistency, which is something all teenagers crave. 
  5. Empower your child: empowering your child to work through challenges instead of attempting to escape them can help to elevate self-esteem, increase resilience, and enhance confidence.
  6. Have open lines of communication: create an emotionally safe environment and have regular check-ins with your teenager. 
  7. Recognize your own limitations: your teen may be dealing with certain issues that extend beyond your abilities and there is a vast network of highly qualified professionals that have extensive experience and expert knowledge in treating teenagers.

The teenage years are among the most difficult periods in one’s life as they are denoted by fast-paced evolution and physiological growth. Meeting your child where they are to help them through the ups and downs that inevitably occur during adolescence is invaluable to their social and emotional development. 

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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