The first time my daughter ran away was the most terrifying experience for the entire family. She had gotten her phone taken away because she kept skipping field hockey practice to hang out with a couple of girls she had met. The Field Hockey coach had reached out to me for help and told me that if she missed practice again, she would, unfortunately, have to kick my daughter off the team. There was only a week left for the season to end so after a week of not having her phone, I gave it back to her and told her to make an effort for the last week. After that, if she didn’t want to do field hockey again, then at least she finished. As I stated before, my daughter has Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and is extremely impulsive. One of my battles with her is that she can’t see past the day and doesn’t think of the consequences of her actions. You might think “typical teenager,” but think of how one behaves and multiply by 100.
The day she ran away I was on the train heading to my car. I had a long day at work, and I was thinking of the couple of hours I was going to relax before picking her up from practice. My phone vibrated so I looked down to see what it was. It was an email from the coach saying that Isabelle skipped practice again and some of the girls had seen her hanging out, so she had to kick her off the team. I was in shock. One week left, and she decided instead to get kicked off the team. I texted her that I was on my way to pick her up, and she replied ok. I got to the school and spent four hours texting and calling her frantically and trying to figure out what to do. My sister told me to call the police, which I did.
The School Resource Officer (SRO) was there because a football game was going on and took down the report. I tried tracking her on her phone, and she turned off her location services. It was the worst night of my life. I didn’t sleep all night because all these thoughts were racing through my head. Did someone kidnap her? Is she in a ditch? Has she been human trafficked? What can I do?
My family came the next day, and we started searching for her. I posted that she was missing on social media and a bunch of tips from her friends started pouring in. The one good thing that came out of this is seeing how amazing and supportive the teenagers were. It was shocking that all of them were willing to reach out to me to help in any way that they could. From these tips, we found her. Since then, my daughter has run away numerous times.
At first, I blamed myself. Was it something in the house? What was it that I was doing that would cause my daughter to want to leave the house? How can I stop her from running away? Is it because I was a single mother? Have I been too lenient? From my story and other parents dealing with the same issues, we tend to beat ourselves up a lot because we tend to blame ourselves.
Since then, I have learned a lot and want to share it with other parents, which I plan to do in the upcoming posts. It has been a long and hard road for my daughter, son, and I. She has been in extensive therapy, we have done family therapy, and I got the juvenile courts involved. From being on Reddit, Quora, and other forums, I am not the only one dealing with this.
I have learned that the parents are not always to blame. You can try to do everything right and your teenager still has a mind of his/her own. After trying hard to find a way to help my daughter, she didn’t want to accept any help. It wasn’t until she refused to take her medication that her psychiatrist talked to me in private. She said you have done all you can do. If she doesn’t want help, then you can’t do much. Don’t give up and always be there for her, but you can’t keep doing this to yourself anymore.
As I type this, my daughter was accepted once again to the court program and is in temporary housing until this week’s court date where she will be placed in a residential program offered by the county that her previous probation officer and I tried hard to get her in last year. However, the judge decided to give her “one last chance,” which I felt was a terrible mistake at the time. Now, I see that it wouldn’t have worked. My daughter refused to go so she would have been closed off as she has been this whole time. This time, she initially told her new probation officer and me that she wasn’t going and would just leave from there. She has changed her mind and says that she now realizes that she needs help. I feel a sense of hope that I haven’t felt for a long time.
Please be supportive to parents who are dealing with an out-of-control and defiant teenager because sometimes they are trying their best. I plan to discuss the courts, interaction with the police, different therapeutic programs, medications, etc. I am not an expert, but just someone who is sharing her experiences.
Please sign up to the email newsletter to get weekly updates.