Reaching Out to the Runaway

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright 1999

Dear Annette,

My 17 y/o daughter ran away from home in July.

Unfortunately, NY State law is on her side and we can do nothing legally to forcer her to return home.  She's living with friends and attending school (thank goodness).  My problem is that she refuses to have anything to do with us.  She won't talk to us, won't agree to family counseling, won't go to individual counseling, etc.  I've tried writing her letters expressing my love and concern for her and asking her to talk to us and tell us what she feels we've done wrong.  All I got after 4 letters was a letter to leave her alone, she wanted nothing to do with us, we never listened to her, she always felt like an outsider, she was happy where she was, etc.

What can I do ... should I try?  I want my family complete again.  I'm worried about her and her reasons for leaving home.


Dear Worried,

Send birthday cards, Christmas cards, and newsy letters. Keep the channel open and let her know that she is loved and welcome. 

If you write you will be showing her that ...

1.  you still love her.

2.  you still want her to be part of your lives.

3.  she has not burned her bridges.

Teens that age tend to be very dramatic and blow everything out of proportion.  When she comes to she senses she will see that what has happened is not so terrible and is mend-able.  Do not think this will happen immediately.  Teens do not think like adults quite yet. 


See:  Understanding Adolescents and Teens 

She has her free agency you can't make her do anything, so stop demanding things of her and except her on her terms.  She has set herself up as an adult, so now you must treat her as one.  She is a separate entity now for whatever reason is that she left.

You cannot change the past but you can change the future.  Be loving and open even if news reaches you that she is pregnant, has STDs, or AIDS.  She is a child of God and that title demands your respect and support in the ways that she will allow you to do so. 

The picture that gets conjured up in my mind when I read your narrative is a balking donkey jerking backwards while you are pulling hard to get her to move in the direction you want her to go.  Stop pulling because she will react with equal and opposite reaction.  Instead of pulling her to you parallel her and allow her the freedom to make mistakes with the option that you are there to help should she need you.  Be her ally not her enemy.

Keep your letters upbeat and constantly going out to her.  There is a good chance that someday she will grow up or will need her family so the door must be open for her to step back over the threshold and back to you!

Meanwhile, continually remember her in your prayers.

Good luck in your endeavors,

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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