Everyone’s had that horrible, gut-wrenching moment when you think your child has gone missing. You lose sight of them just for a moment and, suddenly, they’re nowhere to be found. It might be in the supermarket, at the airport or they may have decided to run out of a toddler group to go and visit Pet Warehouse (see ‘Losing Things’).
Most of us are fortunate enough to find our child within seconds of them wandering off (even though each sickening second feels like an hour). But what if you were a parent whose child ran away and didn’t come back? Imagine waking up day after day with that same twist of fear and panic that your child is out there somewhere, not knowing if they’re safe or even alive. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
Unfortunately I’m going to ask you to think about it. Sorry. I know this is a break from my usual light-hearted stuff, but Mumsnet are asking people to blog about this issue to raise awareness for Railway Children, who work tirelessly to support children under 16 who run away from home, or are at risk of doing so.
You may think it’s not an issue that affects you because we all like to believe that our children are happy, loved, safe and secure and work hard to make them feel that way. We like to comfort ourselves with the thought that it’s only children from backgrounds with a history of neglect, cruelty or drug and alcohol abuse that are so unhappy that they feel the need to escape.
Yet whilst this is true of many young people who run away, the reality is that sometimes life becomes too overwhelming, whatever your age. For some teenagers, every day issues such as bullying, relationship difficulties or a family breakdown become too much to cope with and running away seems like the only available option.
Shockingly, a child runs away every five minutes in the UK and as many as 1 in every 11 teenagers aged 14 – 16 have run away overnight at some stage in their life; that’s more that 2 children in your child’s class at school.
The statistics are worrying. Although my children are all too young as yet to fall into this age category, I feel that the pressures on young people today of exams, sexuality, body image and a lack of money (due to university fees and/or unemployment rates) could all be very real problems that any one of our children could face, now or in the future.
Just for writing this blog post, Aviva will donate £2 to Railway Children. If any of you are kind enough to leave comments on this post with your thoughts and opinions on the subject, they’ll donate a further £2 for each one and for any tweets or mentions on Facebook.
I know your children mean everything to you as mine do to me, so even if this isn’t something you have direct experience of (and hopefully never will), you can all empathise with a parent just like you or me whose child has gone missing, maybe without even knowing why.
Please help Railway Children to raise awareness and prevent more young people from leaving home. It won’t cost you a penny, just a few minutes of your time to write a comment in response to this post.