Running Away Part II: “Mom, I Want to Come Home.” When Your Child is on the Streets

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In part two of this series on running away, James tells you how to handle it when your child is on the streets, and what to say when they come home—including giving them consequences for their actions.

[Editor’s Note: The intent of this article is to support parents in situations where their child uses running away as a faulty problem-solving skill in response to rules or limits that are being set in the home. Sometimes there are underlying issues that may influence a child or teen to run away. This article is not intended to address situations that may possibly involve abuse, neglect or other issues.]

For kids, running away is like taking a long, dangerous timeout. They may use it to avoid some difficulty at home, or to hide from something that’s embarrassing to them. You can also look at running away as a power struggle, because kids will often run instead of taking responsibility for their actions or complying with house rules. Above all, as a parent, what you don’t want to do is give it power. That’s the cardinal rule: do not give this behavior power.

The forces that drive your child to run are more powerful than the thought that he might get a consequence.

In the last article, I discussed what you can do before your child leaves, and how to create an atmosphere of acceptance at home. In part two, I’d like to talk about what you can do when your child is out on the streets, and how you should handle their re-entry back into home life.

WHAT TO DO WHILE YOUR CHILD IS ON THE STREET

Leave a Paper Trail

If your child has run away, you need to call the police, plain and simple. I understand that not all parents want to do this, but I think it’s imperative that you take this step. I can’t stress this enough: you want to have a written record that your child is not under your supervision, and that should be recorded at the police station.

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Also, if you call and report your child missing, know that your call will be recorded. I hate to say it, but one of the paradoxes for parents is that the authorities will often ask, “Why did you let your child run away?” when in fact, there’s no way they can make them stay at home. Do your best to answer as honestly as you can, because it’s very important to document what’s happening.

You should also call the Department of Human Services to create a paper trail there, too. They may very well tell you that they can’t give you any help, but the point is, you documented it. Be sure to write down the name of the case worker you talked to for future reference.

Should You Look for Your Child on the Streets?

I personally don’t believe in going and looking for your child on the streets if they are children who chronically run away. I don’t think you should give that kind of behavior a lot of power. The rules should be really clear in the family: “If you run away, you’ve got to make your way back here. I’m not going to come looking for you or call all your friends. If you’re not home, I’ll call the police.”

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There are those parents who look for their kids to make sure they’re okay. I understand that impulse, but again, I don’t think you want to give your child too much power or special status when they run away. If they get too much attention and too much power, you’re just encouraging them to do it again the next time there’s a problem. Unintentional reinforcement is something you have to be very careful about.

If you do find your child, you can say, “Look, when you’re ready to come home, we’ll talk about it.” I’m personally very leery about parents who chase after their kids and beg and plead. If you do beg them to come home, when your child comes back, they will have more power and you have less. From then on, whenever they want something or don’t want to be held accountable for their actions, they’ll play the runaway card.

The Sad Truth: Lack of Community Support for Parents of Runaways

Remember, it’s your child’s responsibility to stay at home since you legally have no way to keep them there. In fact, I know of kids who’ve actually left while the police were there. They just said, “I’m not taking this anymore,” and they walked out. And the cops said to the parents, “We can’t do anything until he commits a crime.”

In the states where I’ve lived, if your child runs away and you call the police, by law they can’t do anything. Part of the obstacle that parents face is a lack of community support. Amazingly, there’s no statute that requires kids to live in a safe place. That really puts parents in a bad place because society won’t make your child stay at home or even in a shelter. When I was a kid, if you ran away from home they would take you to court and put you on probation; you were simply not allowed to run the streets and be a delinquent. Unfortunately, that law has changed. Today, it’s estimated that there are between one to three million kids on the street in this country.  If you decide to file a Missing Persons report, even if the police find your child living on the street, they can’t make him come home. Now your child is no longer a “Missing Person,” and you have even less power in some ways. When that happens, you just have to wait until your child wants to come home.

COMING HOME: RE-ENTRY AND FAMILY RULES

If Your Child Says They are Ready to Come Home…

If your child has dropped out of school and is abusing substances and living on the streets, I don’t think they should be allowed to come home without certain conditions. And if it’s decided that they can return, their re-entry to home life should be very structured.

I know it’s hard, but I think that even if your child is crying on the phone, what you want to get clear is, “We love you very much and you can come back again, but the rules aren’t changing.” I’ve seen parents with abusive kids tell them very simply, “You can’t come home until we have a meeting and agree to some rules. And until then, stay with your friends.” It’s difficult for parents to do, but I support that.

Have a Frank Discussion: What to Say When Your Child is Back Home

One of the main things you want to talk to your returning child about is what they’re going to do differently this time. Ask, “What’s going to be different about the way you solve your problems, and what are you going to do the next time you want to run away?” I recommend that you have a frank discussion with them. Let them know that running away is a problem that simply complicates their lives and makes their other problems worse. Again, we want running away to be viewed as a problem your child has to learn to deal with. We know as adults that once you start running from something, you may run for the rest of your life. Running away is one of the ways kids solve problems, it’s just not an effective way to do so. And in fact, most solutions that depend upon power and control are ineffective.

The Consequences for Running Away:

If your child has run away to avoid consequences, he should do them when he comes back—immediately. That’s what he ran away from, and that’s what he needs to face. Running away is a very dangerous and risky behavior, and I believe there should be a consequence for it, as well. The consequence doesn’t have to be too punitive; keep it task-oriented. One of the problems with consequences is that if they’re not lesson-oriented, then the concept you’re trying to teach is lost. I like a consequence that says, “Write out the whole story of how you ran away. What were you thinking, what were you trying to accomplish? And then tell me what you’re going to do differently next time.” Sit down with your child and get them to process it with you, and then talk about what your child can do differently next time together. Always hold them accountable. For kids who run away chronically, if you send them to their room, they won’t learn anything. But if you ground them from electronics until they write an essay, make amends, and tell you how they’re going to handle it differently, eventually the behavior will change.

Here’s the truth: nobody ever stopped running away because they were afraid of punishment. Nobody ever said, “I’m not going to run away because the consequences are too severe.” If you’re a parent of teen who is in danger of running away, realize that the forces that drive him to run are more powerful than the thought that he might get a consequence.

Use Repetition and Rehearsal to Change Behavior

If your child writes an essay about why they ran away and tells you they are sorry, whether they mean it or not really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that the learning is going to change. Think of it this way: if you had a spelling test every day, whether you tried or not, you’re going to learn to spell. It’s the same way for your child—he has to write those words out. One of the primary ways kids learn is through repetition and rehearsal. Part of that, by the way, is giving them task-oriented consequences, over and over again. It’s much better to have your child write an apology five times than to send them to their room for five hours. Eventually, that learning will sink in—I’ve seen it happen time and time again.

Should You Ever Tell Your Child to Leave?

Sometimes kids come home and start falling into their old patterns of behavior. I know parents who have told their kids to go to a shelter or to go couch surf for a week. I am sympathetic to this approach, but I think there’s a very high risk involved; each family has to make decisions like these very seriously. If you’re going to tell an under-age person to go couch surf, you have to think that through carefully. This is not because you’re going to be held criminally responsible or go to jail, but because bad things can happen—and you’re going to have to live with the consequences, no matter what. Parents of girls often worry more because of the simple fact that it’s riskier for girls to run than for boys—more harm can come to them. Remember, each family has to live with its own decisions when it comes to safety—and there’s no joking about that.

The Key to Dealing with Kids Who Run Away

In my opinion, the key to dealing with kids who run away both chronically and episodically is teaching them problem-solving skills, and identifying the triggers that lead to risky decisions. Kids have to learn coping skills that help them manage their responsibilities in the here and now, so they don’t have anything to run away from in the future. That means doing their homework and chores, being honest and not lying about responsibilities and schoolwork, getting clean and sober if they have a substance abuse problem, and being able to face the music when they’ve done something wrong or publicly embarrassing. The bottom line is that kids need to learn how to take responsibility, be accountable, and not run away from consequences. Kids are not told enough that life is what you make it—and that means now, not when you’re 25.

About

James Lehman, who dedicated his life to behaviorally troubled youth, created The Total Transformation®, The Complete Guide to Consequences™, Getting Through To Your Child™, and Two Parents One Plan™, from a place of professional and personal experience. Having had severe behavioral problems himself as a child, he was inspired to focus on behavioral management professionally. Together with his wife, Janet Lehman, he developed an approach to managing children and teens that challenges them to solve their own problems without hiding behind disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive behavior. Empowering Parents now brings this insightful and impactful program directly to homes around the globe.

Comments (75)
  • MomOfFive
    My 8 year old ran away to my ex husband's house (not her dad) because she was tired of being grounded for lying. Only been a week grounded. I don't want her to be in trouble for running away, but I don't want her thinking she can just run awayMore when she doesn't like the consequences for her wrong-doing. How do we find that balance? She is still grounded for lying.
  • Clark
    Hi, I’m the mother of a pretty manipulative and defiant 13 yr old girl. She has been diagnosed with ADHD, and ODD with Conduct Disorder. I put her in a partial-hospitalization program for a few months. It worked for a few weeks and then she was back atMore it again. She has consistently run away for about a year now, whenever she has to face consequences for her actions. I’ve spent hours looking for her but now I just call the police and lock my door. She eventually returns home. This evening she even unlocked a window before she left since she “plans” these episodes so when I locked the door and retired for the night, she reentered the house through the unlocked window. I’m tired of her having all the power and doing whatever she wants. Why am I powerless to a child? If I take something from her she fights me and then falsely accuses me of abusing her. I’m over this. She’s a spoiled brat who runs the streets with her friends and faces zero consequences.
  • Sarah
    Hey not sure what to do . My 15 year old keeps running away . We recently had a baby and I wonder if that effects her. I feel like a door mat though because everytime she comes back I shower her with love and gifts . Then she sneaksMore out again. I found out she’s pregnant. She refuses to go to school. We had moved about 2 years ago and I figured that was the problem so I told her we are moving back home thinking it would solve it . She tells me I’ll trunaway there too and I don’t want to go home . I actually did find a home there and anticipate on moving back in 2 months but I don’t know if it will change anything. I feel guilty stupid and not sure how to approach this . I have therapy set up for her but she keeps leaving . She’s hanging out with a 20 year old girl who has a warrant and older men . I don’t know what to do. She steals lies and now pregnant . I feel guilty because I remarried and got pregnant after being a single mom for 8 years . My plan is to leave my husband and go home . Thoughts helps ?
  • Hopeful

    I think in your article it’s saying that you should set clear boundaries for the returning child like ‘you must be sober and clean’. Article 1 sites many teens leave due to substance use. If they want to come home, should we expect them to be sober and drug free?

    If we do, how do you suggest we enforce this? Drug tests?

    What if they slip back and start using or fail drug test?

    How do we enforce this? If we say ‘you can only live here if you are sober and drug free’, we must be willing to follow through if they revert

    Then we’re asking them to leave again and is this the best thing for them? We have two teens in this boat. 1 is 16 and has moved out 2 weeks ago and one is 19 living here but smokes weed and has no job, no car.

    Love to ask him to leave if that would help but last time we did this, he got into a lot of trouble.

    16 year old may come home but what do we do?

  • Rebekah
    I read your article and must comment as both a parent and a former runaway. I think your advice is detrimental and insensitive. I have been a young person who truely believed that anything was better than continuing to live in my parent's home. I wasMore 14 and in the 8th grade. Today is the anniversary of me running away actually. In my experience angry and rebellious children do not spontaneously occur. The first step would be to analyze your own mistakes as a parent. There are consequences to making big mistakes as a parent. You can not expect well adjusted happy kids if you are doing a poor job as an adult or parent yourself. Most angry teens are angry for a reason or are hormoneally imbalanced. I had PMDD and parents who had made major mistakes in their marriage, personal life and as parents. We were unaware of my PMDD though they had me evaluated by psychiatrist with hopes to medicate me. Most young people want to be seen, heard, and understood. If they feel disregarded or constantly misunderstood they will often act out. If they are led to believe either blatantly or passively that who they are is unacceptable and unlovable they will act out or go looking for it in the wrong places. I believe change in a young person starts by showing and expressing unconditional love, listening, admitting fault as a parent and asking for forgiveness when necessary. Acceptance and reasonable expectations. I never felt my feelings or experiences were validated or heard. I responded better to the positive effort of strangers because my parents couldn't recognize and verbalize the effect their mistakes had on me. I am 38 now and have good relationships with my parents and sisters. This took many years and there is still a lot of pain under the surface for myself. I was depressed, suicidal, sad, and felt a sense of hopelessness. I had a horrible self esteem despite faking outward extrovertedness. It took many years to see myself as more than a black sheep because even after I came home that was my stigma. I have studied human trafficking and know how at risk runaway truely are. I would never ever leave my child in danger or at higher risk simply to make a point or hold onto some kind of power. The parents who have buried their children would probably agree. This can be only a season in their life and your family's future story. Or it can be their final chapter and the final straw the keeps you divided forever. I will Never Forget my parents refusing to let me come home after months in a privatized foster care. It broke my heart and certainly didn't make me feel understood, loved, or cared for in anyway. I eventually came home but would struggle for years and didn't find any real healing or peace until I left their home for good. I have said for many years that although I love them very much I just couldn't live with them and be whole and healthy. I am grateful for healing. I have 2 kids, one who is almost the same age I was when I left, and I am thankful they know their grandparents and aunts. See their best. Own your faults as parents. Seek professional help for you and them.
    • Giina
      I found my way to this site and your comment was the first and I want to say thank you for sharing your story. I felt some of the things you said hit goose to home..sounds as the exact word my daughter said to me today via texting. I neverMore knew not saying sorry meant so much to her!
  • Rachel
    My 17 1/2 year old son ran away for the forth time last night. He stayed in a homeless shelter. They called me this morning to pick him up. I had read your article and told them that he needs to make his way home on the bus. That’s howMore he got there. They said if I don’t pick him up that is neglect and they have to report me to DHS. We live in Texas. My son has early acceptance to a prestigious university and has an ROTC scholarship for the fall. He has a part time job. There is no neglect here, just a young man running away from responsibilities and choices. I asked her what kind of parent would I be if I rescue my son from all of his poor choices? She understands but said that is the law. They cannot discharge a minor that doesn’t have transportation. I said well put him on the line and I will tell him that he doesn’t have to be discharged, he can just leave, go get on a bus, make his way home, take a shower, and I will take him to school. She said, when he wakes up (its 9 am) I will have him call you. 🤨
  • Single mother of 15 year old
    My 15 year old was diagnosed with bipolar disorder II and she is constantly meeting boy after boy, dresses provocatively, says she hates girls and runs away every time i take her phone away. Right now she is with my mother for 3 weeks because my 26 year old daughterMore beat the crud out of her after she punched her while she was driving. It was a mess, we had picked her up while she was running away and she was so disrespectful to me. I don't know how to stop the cycle, she doesn't get what she wants she runs. What can I do?
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about the struggles you are facing with your 15 year old right now, and I’m glad that you are here reaching out for support. While holding her accountable and not rewarding this behavior are part of breaking this cycle, they are often not enoughMore by themselves. In general, people keep using behavior that works for them on some level, and are motivated to change when a particular behavior stops working. Even though your 15 year old might not be getting her phone by running away, this technique is a method that she is using to solve her problems. In order for her to stop running away, she will need to learn more appropriate problem-solving skills. If you haven’t already done so, you might find some helpful tips by reading Part I of this series, Running Away Part I: Why Kids Do It and How to Stop Them. I recognize how difficult this must be right now, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • Tina
    Ok I need some more in site, 16 years son 2nd time running/staying out all night with out permission he is a pathological liar comes up with good stories, doesn't like following the home rules. So last night he decided not to come home from school. I didn't callMore the cops this time, but he went to school today and was on time.
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I hear you. It can be very confusing when a child picks and chooses which rules and expectations he will follow, and which he will disregard. While it is a positive sign that your son chose to go to school today on time, it is still going toMore be important to address his choice not to come home from school. As James Lehman outlines in the article above, it can be helpful to have a problem-solving conversation with him about what he is going to do differently moving forward. You might find some helpful tips on how to structure this conversation in The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: “I Can’t Solve Problems”. I recognize how challenging this must be for you, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • Lea
    How is it that our children now have more legal rights then we as the parents? Running away from your home should be seen as self-harming and these kids should have to spend a few days locked up in a jail cell so that they might appreciate what they have.More My step daughter has been lying, stealing, and now running away to avoid consequences. She is 11 years old. She is a minor. But yet, unless she is caught committing a crime, she basically can do as she pleases? She is committing a crime! No wonder so many of our youth are violent, addicts, dealers, prostitutes, truants and teenage parents. If your child is clever enough to steal $130.00 on 2 separate occasions, your cell phone,your leather boots,a family member's cell phone and iPod plus makeup and even more stuff then they need the help of the law. It is completely exhausting and I can't eat or sleep. I have stomach aches and head aches every day and have her siblings to take care of. Her father works long hard hours to provide for us all so it is a heavy weight left on my shoulders. She simply does not care. If she wants something, she wants it now, not next week. She will plot and wait until I am using the washroom or putting laundry away or anything and then take off. Even hiding her shoes doesn't work. She will take mine. I am feeling very discouraged and alone as we await our meeting with the psychologist next week. I am so scared for her. She just refuses to comply with anything. 11 years old and has run away for the 4th time this week. And it's legal. There is something very wrong with our legal system. It is a crime that I feel unsafe in my own home.
  • liliwater

    hello i have a 15yr old son who run away because i grounded him about his behaviour in school (the teacher had me come over in school to discuss his not wantig to learn and missbehaving)

    He slept the ight home but next day he was gone and i found a note from him sayin coming back on sunday (in 2 days)

    this happend yesturday today is saturday

    what should i do please help me.

    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent CoachEP Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about what you experienced over the weekend with your son, and I hope that he is now home safe with you. As outlined in the article above, it can be useful to talk with your son about what led to his decision to runMore away, and what he will do differently the next time he is in a similar situation. You can find tips on how to have a problem-solving conversation with your son in The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: “I Can’t Solve Problems”. If you haven’t already done so, I also recommend reviewing the first article in this series for additional information on kids using running away as a coping skill or problem-solving strategy. I hope that you will keep us updated on how things are going for you and your family, and I wish you all the best. Take care.
  • Not a sucker
    Hi- I have a 17 yr old who decided to run away because she got grounded and could not attend prom for bad grades. We had also made her sign a contract stating that if her grades were not up to at least a c+ level that she agreedMore that prom was out of the picture. So now... because she doesn't want to accept her consequences she takes off. I filed a missing persons report since she's now been gone for a day. I have a feeling that her bf family is harboring her in their house. Her bf says that she calls her and says she is fine....but I have my suspicions. Now prom is Tonight, and I'm thinking that she will want to come home after she's had her fun. Her Dad and I just don't want to make it that easy Because like you said that would give her power. Now what is your advise about type of consequence we should give her? We don't want to have suckers painted on our faces and empower her. Thx
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      Thank you for your question. I recognize that you want your daughter to be held accountable for her choices, while also making sure that she is safe. At the same time, you may face legal consequences if you do not allow your daughter back into your home because sheMore is still underage. When your daughter is ready to come back home, I encourage you to have a problem-solving conversation with her about what happened, and what she could have done differently as outlined in the article above. You might also consider suspending other privileges, such as a cell phone or wifi access, until she is ready to talk with you about her choices. I recognize what a tough situation this must be for you, and I hope that you will write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • Scg
    This is not for the parents side but for the run away im about to be 17 in may im 5 months pregnant my parents dont let me leave the house i tried leaving once but police was called and semd me back saying if i did it again iMore would be charged with a missing Juvenal i never dont anything bad like drugs or anything but i just my parents would let my boyfriend see my child if he does not do what they want since they are really religious they said as long as he does not go to church or i cant leave unless we get married but i just wanted to wait for that but i wanna be able to go with with him we have a house and we work and we both are not in any danger i dont really wanna take my parents to court for emancipación because i know that eould just hurts them more then the pregnancy did ehat can i do
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about the situation you are in right now with your parents. Because we are a website aimed at helping people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestionsMore we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role. Another resource which might be more useful to you is the Boys Town National Hotline, which you can reach by calling 1-800-448-3000, 24/7. They have trained counselors who talk with kids, teens and young adults everyday about issues they are facing, and they can help you to look at your options and come up with a plan. They also have options to communicate via text, email, and live chat which you can find on their website, YourLifeYourVoice.org We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
  • Shantellie c
    Hi my name is shantellie ,I have a 13 year old young man who keeps running away to smoke weed with friends ,when I go looking for him he hides ,he has a probation officer ,who told me it's not elegal for 13 year olds to run away ,I doMore police reports the police say we will patrol mam,it is awful I can't sleep I worried what if some one kid naps him .He also steals our stuff to buy the weed, and sells his stuff .please help I'm tired .
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I’m so sorry to hear about what you are going through right now with your son. I’m glad to hear that you have been working with local supports, such as police and his probation officer, to help you address these choices. Even if they are not able toMore help you hold him accountable for running away, they might be able to assist you with his choices to smoke marijuana and steal from you. You might consider talking with them during a calm time to develop a plan of how you can respond if he is making these choices. We have a free downloadable template which can help guide this conversation, which you can access HERE. You might find additional tips in My Child Is Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol—What Should I Do? as well. Please be sure to write back and let us know how things are going for you and your family. Take care.
  • Alwaysadiamond
    I've been frustrated these past few months and most of the last year (2016). My daughter says she hates coming home. She's decided instead of going to school and being responsible she'd rather lay up on friends floors and couches and peddle her ass up and down the street allMore damn night. She's been under the influence many times and is more concerned with laying up under her boyfriend and being with people where there's no accountability. She's a few months from 18. My hands feel tied. I'm going to get in front of this situation by filing a police report and speaking to school administrators but I don't know what else to do. She isn't talking to me anymore. Just don't know what to do. Help!
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I’m sorry to hear about your daughter’s behavior over the past months, and I’m glad that you are here reaching out for support. Filing a police report and speaking to your daughter’s school administration can be effective steps to take at this point, and are actions that you canMore follow through on without depending on your daughter’s compliance or communication with you. With your daughter’s age, it might be more effective at this point to think about your own boundaries in regard to her behavior rather than trying to make your daughter comply with your rules. You might find some useful tips on how to move forward in James Lehman’s article series on adult children. You can find the first article here: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part I. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for you, and I wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
  • Wanda mac dougall
    Hi my 16 year old daughter had been having problems since her father abandoned us since she was 12 I've had her to counsellors to deal with depression and anxiety since a few years then she wanted to change schools and I let her because she felt she wasn't gettingMore the courses she wanted but then she got into sexual relations changing boyfriends every week because one guy she went with broke up with her and wanted her to go to school there and so it's been downhill ever since so she moved out from home to move in with about ten different boyfriends in s mater of 7 months the relationships don't last and she won't come home and as time goes on she's already blocked most of her family and friends what can I do to regain her trust I can't get her to or force her to come home she needs help for sure I'm at my wits end and worried sick since Xmas since she's moved out for good the cops say it's better to let her go and she'll learn the hard way and I'm still her legal guardian but what good is uhst if I can't do anything to help her
    • Rebecca Wolfenden, Parent Coach
      I’m sorry to hear about the situation you are currently facing with your daughter refusing to come home, or to get professional help. I’m glad to see that you have reached out to police for assistance, even though they were limited in the support they were able to provideMore you. As they mentioned, it’s ultimately going to be up to your daughter to decide when she is ready for help, and wants to change. In the meantime, I hope that you have some support in place for you. Self-care is an often overlooked, yet crucial, part of being an effective parent. Your self-care plan can be anything you like: from calling a supportive friend or family member, to using more structured supports, such as a counselor or support group. For information about available supports in your community, try contacting the 211 Helpline at 1-800-836-3238. I recognize what a difficult time this must be for you, and I wish you all the best moving forward. Take care.
  • Mom of a teenage girl
    I grounded my 17 year old daughter for lying and asked for her phone. She refused and left the house so I temporarily suspended her phone. She is refusing to come home and says she is staying at a friend's house for a couple of days. HowMore do I discipline this? If I don't play my cards right she will leave home every time she won't get her way? Do I allow her back home? Do I change passcode on the house and advise her the-entry will only happen once we see a change or agrees to counselling? Help! This can either make or break our family and her future
    • Kimmie

      Mom of a teenage girl I am having a similar problem and don't know what to do. I am wondering how you ended up handling this situation and hope that everything went well. My daughter is going to be 18 in a little over a month a the last few months she turned into someone I don't even know. I have cancer and have been so sick and this is literally killing me. The lie was many and at first I wanted to believe her but the evidence is written and there is no doubt in my mind what is happening but she still denies everything and says why wont i believe her. She left the house suitcase packed while i was in the bathroom and then text from a random number later saying she was fine staying somewhere and things will be better now that i kicked her out. I never kicked her out i went through her phone trying to figure out where she might have gone and found out more than i wanted to. Most of it was nothing and only confirmed some things that I already knew, mind you I obviously was a teenager once too! But other stuff worries me tremendously and i can see where the behavior is leading. I have 3 other children and they don't understand either. I hope you have some insight for me.

      Thank you for listening

    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Mom of a teenage girl I hear how much you’re struggling with your daughter’s choices right now, and I’m glad that you’re here reaching out for support.  Suspending your daughter’s phone after she refused to hand it over is reasonable, as we don’t recommend getting into a physical power struggleMore or trying to wrestle it away from her.  As pointed out in the first article in this series, https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/running-away-part-i-why-kids-do-it-and-how-to-stop-them/, sometimes kids will use running away as a problem-solving strategy.  In other words, your daughter may be refusing to come home as a way to avoid confrontation and consequences from you.  At this point, I encourage you to talk with your daughter during a calm time about your expectations for her behavior when she comes back home, as outlined in the article above.  Because your daughter is a minor and you are responsible for her well-being, I would not recommend locking her out of the house or telling her that she is not allowed back home as it might lead to legal consequences for you.  I recognize how difficult this must be for you and your family right now, and I wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
    22336677 Thank you for your question.  It can be quite scary when a child has run away and has been missing for months.  It’s difficult to answer as to whether a parent is still required to pay child support in this instance.  It might be useful to consult with aMore lawyer, who can inform you as to your obligations in this situation.  If you are not currently working with a lawyer, you might try contacting the http://www.211.org at 1-800-273-6222.  211 is a service which refers people to available resources, such as legal assistance, in their community.  If you have not already done so, I also encourage you to report her missing to the police, as well as a local child services department, as outlined in the article above.  One more resource you might find useful is the https://www.1800runaway.org/ at 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929), which has trained staff to help kids as well as parents and guardians in this situation.  I wish you and your family all the best moving forward.  Take care.
  • Feeling Fried Up
    My 16 year old daughter is out of control so we came to live with my brother and sister in law. Now they have medical issues with one of their own children and I feel alone once again. Where can I turn to for help?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
      Feeling Fried Up I’m so sorry to hear about the challenges you are facing with your daughter, as well as the medical issues which have occurred with your brother’s child.  I hear how motivated you are to find help for yourself as well as your family members.  We have aMore variety of resources available here on our website, such as expert articles and blogs, which outline how to effectively address a multitude of child behavioral issues.  We also offer eCoaching with our expert coaching staff.  For more information about this service, please click https://www.empoweringparents.com/product/parent-ecoaching/.  For assistance locating resources in your community, try contacting the http://www.211.org at 1-800-273-6222.  211 is a service which provides information and referrals to resources available in your local area.  I wish you and your  family all the best moving forward.  Take care.
  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport
    12lairda Thank you for writing in and sharing your experiences.  As indicated in the editor’s note, we recognize that there are numerous situations in which a child might run away, and this article is not intended to address issues such as abuse, neglect, substance use and/or mental illness.  I’m sorryMore to hear about your life experiences thus far, and you deserve to be safe from harm both at home and at school.  One resource you might find useful is https://www.childline.org.uk/, which you can reach by calling 0800 1111.  They have trained counselors who talk with kids, and teens everyday about issues they are facing, and they can help you to look at your options and come up with a plan.  They also have options to communicate via message boards, email, and live chat which you can find on their website.  We wish you the best going forward. Take care.
  • Worried_mom
    My teen daughter left since to took the internet away from her she try to beat on me destroyed thing in house and ran away hasn't come Bk manage to talk her younger sister to leave with her I'm worried to death. Don't live in safe area.
  • Kristy Morton
    My 14 yr son will not take any responsibility. He just runs away. When he does come home he yells and screams and blames me then takes of again. We have done everything he has asked in or conditions we did together but he refuses to see that . TheMore police hmm no law against him being in a drug house. As for school he is in a school he loves but if he isn't home then I can't take him as it is a distance from home a good alternative school for kids that wag ext. He has anxiety but thinks that smoking Marijuana is the answer as for his friends my god . my husband and I just can no longer cope. Last Saturday when he wanted to come home i said to him that if he wants to come home he can but only if he really wants to stop running away. He recons he isn't running away as we know where he is but the people tell us he is not there.
  • Fed up like mf
    Have 16 girl wants be gay don't go school half time late other half then wants sleep in parks other friends houses feel I don't allow fun.. done everything she's become like delinquent she with kids have upper hand until do crime Nj notMore fair dyfs no help also
    • zairenzu
      Fed up like mf Wants to be gay? Being gay isn't a choice. Maybe the fact that you aren't accepting of her is causing her to act out. Teenagers are people too, maybe talk to her about what she is doing and why she is doing it? Let herMore know the consequences of not going to school and sleeping in parks. There is definitely an underlying cause of why she's acting like this, you have to figure out why before she'll change.
  • cheekygoat
    I have a 10 year old with ADHD, ODD and PDD. 5 times in the past 4 weeks he has just taken off without warning, we live in a small town and i was unable to find him no matter how many times in the 5 plus hours he wasMore gone i searched. He wont tell me where he's been he refuses to talk to me to tell me why he does it. and the past 2 times he's screamed out "dont hurt me!" I have NEVER laid a hand my children EVER in their entire lives and was shocked when he said it. He sneaked out the house last night and never came home until well after dark and no explanation as to where he had been in fact he refused to talk at all and put himself to bed. Then tonight he was given a task to do which involved walking 10 mins away to my mum's house and he vanished in the end i had to go to my mums. Just as i was leaving (which was an hour and a half later) he spots me and his little brother walking out the door and took off as fast as he could back the way he came, and when we tried to follow he had disappeared into thin air again! I am extremely worried about his behaviour and am even more concerned he is going to get hurt, its my job as a parent to keep him safe, i'm the only parent he has and i have no idea how to stop this dangerous behaviour. I am terrified when i cannot find him as i am aware that there are 2 pedophiles that live close to where we do and i always immediately think the worst when i cannot find him. The worse part is i have no idea what causes him to leave, we could be doing something as simple as asking how his day at school was or i ask him to take out the rubbish next thing he's gone without a trace. Sometimes i wonder if its just a game to push my buttons as the first 2 times he did it he laughed when my mum and i told him what he did was wrong! I just dont know what to do about it
    • zairenzu
      cheekygoat If he won't talk to you maybe he'll talk to an anonymous third party like a counselor or psychiatrist?
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      cheekygoat 

      I hear you.I can

      only imagine how terrifying it must be when your son has run off, and you cannot

      find him despite searching for hours.If

      you have not already done so, I encourage you to read https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/running-away-part-i-why-kids-do-it-and-how-to-stop-them/, which outlines how you can take preventative steps if

      you believe that your child is preparing to run away.I also encourage you to contact your local

      law enforcement department during a calm time to see how they might be able to

      help you address this potential safety risk. We have a https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/how-to-talk-to-police-when-your-child-is-physically-abusive/ you can use to help guide this discussion.I recognize how scary this must be for you,

      and I wish you all the best moving forward.Take care.

  • mjmarti1
    i am 15 and i am really thinking about running away because i feel like my parents are asking too much of me.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      mjmarti1 

      We appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and

      sharing your story. I am sorry to hear about the issues you are having with

      your parents.  Because we are a website aimed at helping people become

      more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and suggestions we can

      give to those outside of a direct parenting role.  One resource which

      might be more useful to you is the Boys Town National Hotline, which you can

      reach by calling 1-800-448-3000, 24/7. They have trained counselors who talk

      with kids, teens and young adults everyday about issues they are facing, and

      they can help you to look at your options and come up with a plan.  They

      also have options to communicate via text, email, and live chat which you can

      find on their website, http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/ 

      Another resource you might find helpful is the http://www.1800runaway.org/, which is also

      available 24/7 by calling 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929). They have options to

      communicate via email, forum and live chat as well.  We wish you the best

      going forward. Take care.

  • Ms_vee
    I'm so angry at the way parents have no rights towards their children other than to get punished themselves. My daughter ran away 1 week ago because I found out she was selling drugs and stole money from my purse. I have had several other problems with her and atMore the end of the day it becomes my fault because I'm the parent. I'm sorry but I just can't take that as a reasonable option. I have taken her to therapy and they gave her medication but she decided to not take the medication and to not talk to the therapist about what was really bothering her. Instead she spoke about things she disliked about school. I have encouraged her to play a sport she liked but at the end of the day the bad decisions she made where her choices not because I didn't do all I could to help her. I know I'm all over the place but I'm worried about my daughter and I wish the police and laws were more in favor of the parents who have actually tried to get their kids on the right path. It hurts to say or to even think that I just happened to have a bad seed. All I do now is worry about the day I get a call to go and identify a body.
    • Vitaminsea
      I completely understand you! No matter what do everything is on me... I have paid $$ for advocates, missed worked, visited every doctor, have in home therapy, set up contracts wil black and white rewards and consequences... and at the end of the day I get blamed. She yells atMore me, curses me at her school, at home, throws stuff at me at the mall, lies, engages in risky things online and I can't do anything! Except talk and follow through with consequences... I feel abused
  • petepreston2013
    Maybe its too late for essays now. But did you ever get her to do essays and problem solve earlier? Sometimes we blame the child for EVERYTHING. Nobody is perfect, so I am pretty sure things start somewhere and was not addresses at the onset.
  • Gin
    What should I do if my 15 yr old daughter runs away, and I find out that she is hooking in Oakland??!! She's been gone 2 weeks.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      @Gin 

      I’m sorry to hear about what you are going through with your

      daughter.  If you have not already done so, I encourage you to report her

      as a runaway to the police as this is a significant potential safety

      issue.  Another resource you might consider is contacting the http://www.1800runaway.org/ at

      1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929).  They have trained counselors available 24/7 who

      can talk with you about what is going on, and discuss your options moving

      forward.  They also have options available to speak with a counselor via

      chat, email and a forum; you can get more information on these on their

      website.  I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you, and I

      wish you all the best moving forward.  Take care.

  • don2747
    Here is a good one? If your child runs to grandma to live because she pretty much gives him everything he wants with little responsibility she can get child support from you! Now aint that a laugher!
    • Live in Harmony
      don2747 Is your parent asking for child support? I was confused at the end of that second sentence and it would really be the icing on the cake if that were the case! I remember the first time my daughter ran away, we asked my in-laws to take her inMore for two nights. BTW, my daughter went with them because I was concerned for my safety, my daughter go physically violent. That first day at their home, my mother-in-law took our daughter to the mall and bought her over $100 in clothing. It amazes me how some grown adults can't see how their behavior hurts and doesn't help!
      • Vitaminsea
        Yes, I disconnected her phone and others let her borrow their phone
      • Ginag1982

        Wow I have a very similar situation . The mother of my ex spoils and encourage my daughters bad behavior making it so hard to dicipline my own child.

        My daughter is in drugs and runs away often and the grandma makes it even more complicated

  • ClarissaC
    My son is 15 and ran away..  he is staying at a girlfriend's home which her mother allows. Is this something that i can report to Police.. is this illegal?
    • Kellyrparks
      I was told it is illegal the same thing my son is a chronic run away. He is now becoming rude and violent.
    • StryckesAgain
      ClarissaC I don't know what state you are in...but in California it is illegal to harbor a runaway.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      ClarissaC 

      You ask some great questions.  Because the laws around

      running away vary so much among communities, it is difficult for me to answer

      your questions.  In general, as James notes in the article above, you can

      file a police report if your son is outside of your home without your

      permission.  Something you might find helpful is to call your local law

      enforcement agency on their non-emergency line.  They may be able to

      answer your questions about the legality of what he is doing, and your options

      moving forward.  Thank you for writing in; take care.

      • Highpocket
        This is happening here in my family,what rights did you have ? Was you able to file charges against that other parent for letting your son stay at their house without your permission?
  • Postelkasey
    My "just turned" 17 yr old runs away and does as she pleases. I have 3 younger children she has been a terrible example to. She wants to come home to grab all her things (all expensive brand name things I bought her) and move out. I've already reported herMore as a runaway and just don't know if I should let her come home to just pack things up when she should be legally living under my roof.
    • Live in Harmony
      Postelkasey It's so hard, isn't it? I'm so sorry you are going through this! I wish there were right answers for every situation, but as a fellow mom who has dealt with my 18 year old daughter running away 6 months ago, I'd say go with your gut. If IMore were in your situation - without knowing all the complexities, just her age and that she ran away - I would respond to her request by letting her know she is already reported as a runaway. They somehow don't realize how serious of a decision that is and it helps to remind your daughter that legally, she should not be on her own. She should be in your home. If she left anything at home, it is no longer hers. Until she is ready to work on the relationships in the house, she can't have anything from the house. I would tell her that until she is ready to talk about transitioning into coming back home OR at least stay in communication with you, she cannot have anything in the house. It may be the only leverage you have in trying to make sure she stays connected.
    • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

      Postelkasey 

      It is a challenging situation you are facing.  You are

      right that, at 17, you are responsible for providing her basic needs, such as

      housing, clothing, food, and so on.  On the other side, you cannot “make”

      her stay in your house, and you have reported her as a runaway.  As James

      points out in the article above, if your daughter wants to come home (even if

      it is only to pack up her things), this can create an opportunity to have a

      conversation with her about following the rules of your home.  In

      addition, another resource you might find useful is the http://www.1800runaway.org/.  The

      experienced staff can talk with you more in-depth about your options with your

      daughter, and you can reach them by calling 1-800-RUNAWAY (786-2929)

      24/7.  If it is more convenient for you, they also have options to reach

      them via email, live chat and an online forum, which is available on their

      website.  Thank you so much for reaching out, and I wish you and your

      family all the best moving forward.  Take care.

  • RebeccaW_ParentalSupport

    Crystal Fox 

    I certainly understand your worry and concern for your 13

    year old, and his choices which could be very dangerous for him.  I’m glad

    to hear that you have called the police each time to report him missing, along

    with contacting people with whom your son might be staying.  These are

    effective steps to take.  Another step you might consider is filing what

    is commonly called a CHINS (child in need of services) petition.  This is

    a legal court order in which the juvenile/family courts can add another level

    of authority and accountability to your son if he is not following your rules

    at home and putting himself in unsafe situations.  This action helps you

    to hold your son accountable for his choices, as well as potentially leading to

    additional resources and services being available to you and your son. 

    You can get more information on this by contacting your local clerk of

    courts.  I can only imagine how difficult this must be for you right now,

    and I wish you all the best as you continue to move forward.  Take care.

  • DrGreen
    Trying to have faith. My 16 yr old son didn't come home last night as he indicated when he went for a bike ride after dinner.  This is the third sleepless night since March bc of his behavior.  He smokes marijuana and has now started a friendship with a boyMore whose mother told me was bad news for my son.  I have filed a report every time he misses curfew or just doesn't come home at all.  We had him arrested for missing curfew and he had a positive breathalyzer.  He has a court date next week he seems concerned about.  He has failed 3 of 5 classes in school and refuses to go to summer school.  We are trying to get him in residential treatment center but  it is almost impossible unless he has had multiple legal issues.  I have a paper trail with the police and social workers.  The police officers have advised to take away everything in his room except mattress, blanket and pillow plus remove door.  Then make him earn back each thing by following rules and practicing problem solving skills rather than running away.  I am ready to send him to a behavioral camp bc his behavior is affecting my other children.  Not sure how to afford it.
  • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

    Danjersmom

    I’m sorry to hear your daughter has run away from her foster

    placement. I can only imagine how worried you must be. It’s understandable you

    would want your daughter back in your home. Because of the possible legal

    issues that could arise, it’s going to be best to consult legal counsel about

    what you should do if your daughter does come to your house. The 211 Helpline

    would be able to give you information on legal services in your area. You can

    reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222. You can also find

    them online at http://www.211.org/. Best of luck to you

    and your family moving forward. Take care.

  • Mrsflute
    My exhusband has been brain wash my daughter to leave with him. He even taught her how to use uber to run away. She is 13. She told me if I don't let her go with her dad she will run away and find her. Me and my ex bothMore have 50 percent custody. Now she is refusing to come home with me on my time. What should do? Please help.
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      Mrsflute

      I can only imagine how upsetting this must be for you. It’s

      probably going to be best to speak with legal counsel concerning your

      situation. Someone familiar with the family & divorce laws in your area

      would be able to let you know what your options are and what steps you can take

      to bring your daughter back home. The 211 Helpline, a nationwide referral

      resource, would be able to give you information on legal services in your area.

      You can reach the Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222. You can also

      find them online at http://www.211.org/. Good luck to you as you work

      through this challenging issue. Take care.

  • Live in Harmony
    In need of some specific advice. My daughter ran away on her 18th bday and has been gone for several months. She had done it before but then made it her goal to leave at 18 because she knew we couldn't come after her. We tried everything to prevent itMore and her therapist said there is nothing we could have done differently. We had her in our home for 20 months (she was adopted as a teen) and she said she wants nothing from us from here on out. We have a paper trail - went to the police, saw a family therapist weekly and met with school officials. (She is still in HS) So my question is, do I cut her off like she is saying she wants? Do we shut off her membership to the local Y, unlink our credit card from school lunches and take her off our health insurance? As long as we provide, I feel like we support her decision and almost make it easy for her to not face the consequences of her decision. A family took her in (they apparently believe she is a victim & believe her lie that we kicked her out). She actually has told other people that they are her "new" family, they are buying a bigger house so she can have her own room and are helping her save up for college. Part of me wants to cut her off but I also don't want to give fuel for the lies she's telling. Help!
    • MorganBarbosa
      Live in Harmony shes 18 you cant make her come home she is an adult she ia allowed to leave if she wants its not even called running away if she left the day she turned 18 you cant even call the police because by law shes an adult
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      Live in Harmony

      I can hear how upset you are that your daughter made the

      choice to move out when she turned 18. What a painful time this must be for

      you. There probably wasn’t anything you could have done differently in this

      situation. From what you have shared, it seems as though this may have been her

      plan all along. Once she became an adult, moving out of your home did become an

      option for her. I wish I could offer a yes or no answer here, but at this

      point, only you can decide what financial support you will continue provide for

      her now that she is an adult. However,  where she is still in school,

       it may be of benefit to speak with legal counsel to find out if there are

      any financial obligations. I wish you and your family the best of luck moving

      forward. Take care.

  • Mishele
    What if a teen (13) just leaves because there is a party on and she wants to go to it?  leaves for a week and thinks its all a big joke the police and everyones been looking for her?  what to do then?
    • DeniseR_ParentalSupport

      Mishele

      I hear you. It can be so frustrating when your child doesn’t

      seem to understand the seriousness of her poor choices. One thing that is

      important to keep in mind– some kids run away because they lack proper skills

      for dealing with situations that cause them frustration or disappointment, as

      James Lehman explains in the first part of the series https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/running-away-part-i-why-kids-do-it-and-how-to-stop-them/ From what you have

      written, it sounds like your daughter was upset and disappointed she wasn’t

      given permission to go to a party so she dealt with the situation by leaving

      home and going to the party anyway. The most productive response is going to be

      to use a task oriented consequence while also helping her develop more

      appropriate problem solving skills. Truthfully, it doesn’t matter whether she

      seems to take the matter seriously or not. The response would be the same. The

      above article gives some great tips for how to do this. You might also want to

      check out the website http://www.1800runaway.org/

      for more helpful information. Good luck to you and your daughter moving

      forward. Take care.

  • Mishele
    LuceliLopez Im in the same boat Im just wondering if you have found anything that works for you..
  • LuceliLopez
    Making your child do an essay? That's it? My daughter is a master manipulator and she will only whine about things she wants to have. She has been missing now for 3 days and all I want is for her to get detained and taken to a juvenile detention. HereMore in Texas police will continue to look around and if they find her they will bring her back to me. Last time she ran away the deputy told her she will be arrested if she did it again. Well here we are. I honestly think at this point her consequences should be to stay in a juvenile to experience what lack of freedom really is. No essay will fix this child. I'm looking online to get a better idea on what to do when she comes back because I am furious. I'm frustrated cause I can't get her to follow rules. I'm seeking advice on that. Thank you for your article tho. I'm sure it will help others with a different kind of child.
    • Jnl
      I feel your pain. My daughter is what my therapist and I feel is ubpd and a master manipulator. It's been a roller coaster ride for sure this past year in our family. As of today, she has decided to come home after a long 5 months of her refusingMore to contact me. For the last few months I have spent time educating myself about bpd in terms of what it is, and how to deal with my daughter more effectively. A couple of resources I found helpful was bpd central which is an online support group, and a book called in sheeps clothing. These resources helped me understand her. Educating yourself will give you the ability to take your life back. We can't always control how our children will act, but we can control how we react. I wish you luck on your journey.
    • JenniferEricksen
      Did the essay work? My 16 daughter ran way from. She was gone for 3 days. The police picked her up. My parents are in town and they think she should a punishment for whoa she did? Please help
      • Darlene EP

        JenniferEricksen 

        Running away is a dangerous and

        concerning behavior. Because your daughter was gone for 3 days, I think you did

        the right thing in involving the police. Involving the authorities is necessary

        when kids make unsafe choices like running away, and it also holds them

        accountable to a higher authority. It makes sense that you would also hold her

        accountable at home as well. In the above article, James talks about the

        importance of making sure consequences are lesson oriented. Having your

        daughter write about her choice to run away and what she will do differently

        next time can serve as the consequence. By having her process what she was

        thinking and what she will do differently  the next time she finds herself

        in a similar situation, you will be helping her towards changing her behavior

        rather than just punishing her.  If she is resistant in doing this you could

        put her electronic privileges on hold until she follows through. Further

        punishments beyond that really would not be effective in teaching her anything.

        I hope this helps to answer your question. Thank you for writing in. Let us

        know if we can be of any further help.

    • jshines
      LuceliLopez have u had any luck with getting through to her, im in the same boat
    • SadInGeorgia
      I have the same kind of child. She doesn't follow rules and sets a bad example for the other children. She just does whatever she wants, then the police bring her back home. They say they can't keep her. I even begged the supervisors to put her in juvinile becauseMore she got involved with a bad bunch who were running CA prostitution ring and reported that as well. They STILL would not keep her. Idk what kinds of kids this works for but I'm waiting for some people who have kids like this where it worked.
  • Micki Harris
    I'm a single struggling mother of two and my 15 Year old son just returned home Monday saying that he wants to change but once again he's at doing the same thing again!I had to go downtown get a police report to have on file..get him back in school andMore yet today....it's the same thing!not returning home from schoolcalling me with some excuse and still haven't made it back.I feel that he used me to get another school bus card just so he can get around and to be honest,it's interfering with everything about my life and I can't take it no more!my youngest son is being affected by my son's actions and I'm doing everything in my power to keep his spirits up.I'm trying to get my g.e.d and get another job and I don't have much help right now so that's more stressful.I'm ready to wash my hands cause he exhausted his chances of family willing to intervene and talk with him but he's in a world of his own and I'm ready to move on and stop giving him this kind of attention and build my life up because he's gonna drag my life down.
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