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Sunday Mornings With Rania: Why Teens Run Away

Rania Mankarious
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Rania Mankarious

Rania Mankarious is executive director of Crime Stoppers of Houston(Photo:

Over the course of just one week, three Houston teens either ran away or went missing. Three. Is it a huge number? No. It is an incredibly alarming number? Yes.

While we don’t have all the information on each case, an interview with sophomore Alyssa Schaefer explicitly spoke of her plan to run away because life at home was “too stressful.” It caused many to ask – what real stresses do kids have?

To me, that is the wrong question. There are kids all over this city living with families whose circumstances range tremendously. We can certainly understand why a child may run, particularly if they are in an abusive home or are dealing with personal issues (addictions, developmental issues, behavioral issues or more). Those are critical issues for another day. 

Right now, I want to focus on those kids who run but are in otherwise good, healthy homes. Why would they run?

  • Could they be lured by a stranger? Remember, if your child has free rein online, they will likely connect with strangers online. Amongst these strangers are trained, determined predators who are 10 steps ahead of your child. No tween or teen has the skills to stand up to these predators.
  • Could they have a desire for change or excitement?
  • Could they have a faulty problem-solving response in the face of rules, limits or a variety of perceived problems (school, sibling, friends, changes in body or otherwise)?
  • Do you think they have a “grass-is-greener” personality? 

Let's be honest, all a child needs to run away is:

  • Ability
  • Willingness
  • Opportunity

Parents, would you take time today to talk about this very real topic with your children? Here’s how: 

  • Step 1: Think about each of these issues in light of your child. Are there any potential cross-overs? 
  • Step 2: Have an honest conversation with your tweens and teens about the realities of running away – the dangers of being a young person on the streets alone; the hunger you may face in time; the probability of trafficking within hours of running away (parents, in an age-appropriate manner or as you see fit; use the facts: about 1.3 million runaway and homeless youth live in America, 5,000 die annually and over 300,000 are forced into sex or labor trafficking); the reality is that once you are gone and in the hands of someone else, it is almost impossible to get back home; you are not old enough, wise enough or capable enough to handle life on your own and certainly cannot and should not feel that life on the streets is in any way more appealing than your current home. Walk them through facts of law – minors cannot rent hotel rooms, get most jobs, rent cars or rent apartments.
  • Step 3: Identify the stressors in your child’s life and talk about solutions together as a family. No matter what your child is facing, there is a solution – teach them those problem-solving skills and remind them that the solution never involves throwing your life into the vulnerable, dangerous hands of strangers or the streets.

Children in today’s world do live with incredible stress. TV and movies catered to tweens and teens are certainly not age appropriate; teen clothing seems designed to put pressure to look a certain way instead of feel comfortable; music pushes agendas; schools teach to standardized tests; kids are overscheduled; parents are working and busy; and life, no matter how you look at it, is different for families today.

All that said, families can still get through it all, together. And kids belong in only one place: their homes. Let’s have the hard conversations today and let’s remind our children how unconditionally loved and accepted they are, every day.

As always, my sincerest wish is for the safety and peace of your kids and mine, always.  

Read Rania’s blog post from last week on West U. teen Sloane Soler, who is thankfully home and safe now. 

For more information on Crime Stoppers of Houston, go to and follow Crime Stoppers on Facebook. Have topics in mind that you’d like Rania to write about? Email her directly at Connect with Rania on Instagram and Twitter. Read past Sundays with Rania posts here.

Editor's Note: Views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Buzz Magazines.

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