I remember as a child around 8 or 9 having a disagreement with my mum on the bus, and I threatened her, I said
“I’ll just walk out of the bus doors and leave then”
her reply was, “go on then”.
This may sound callous, but I am sure as most parents know, she was saying it with the full knowledge that I wouldn’t actually do it.
I just sat there and stared at the doors and imagined the possibilities that lay out there, lay away from my life.
I think that is the point.
As a pre teen I read many books, anything I could get my hands on, and many of the books were about kids running away, and somehow they always survived and had adventures on the way. I mean sure it was tough for them, but they always landed on their feet, found friends and so on.
Recent examples of that can be seen in Phillip Pullman’s Dark materials, the little boy runs away and ends up on magical adventures. He goes through many hardships, dangers, enemies, he get hurt. However the greatest thing that happened to him came from running away.
Ok so that might be a fantasy story, but even in the grittier stories, the kids defeated enemies, outwitted pursuers, benefited and gained from the act of running away.
This is how kids view running away. It is somehow glamorous. Even the most intelligent, streetwise kids will think they can deal with it, and won’t be able to comprehend the full horror.
The books dance over the dark bits, or even if they try to portray them, the lightness always defeats the dark. There is always a happy ending. They never say I regretted it.
This is the picture I had as a kid of running away.
But I didn’t do it.
I remember in high school, a friend of mine, Alex wanted to run away, we all gave her our lunch money, dropped her to the station, borrowed money from the office, but she was soon back.
Then as an older teen in sixth form, I would just leave the house for as long as I wanted. I wasn’t bothered about those worrying about me at home.
Why was this?
Because I had issues. Issues that I couldn’t resolve until I was an adult. Issues I did not ave support from my family in resolving.
I mean they knew I self harmed, how could they not? they chose to ignore it. They didn’t know how to deal with it. The stuff they tried didn’t work. AS they were afraid to talk to me about the real reasons I felt the way I did, afraid to combat it head on. Those who tried to help wouldn’t ask the right questions, and I felt no inclination to open up to them. I didn’t see the point to talk to a stranger and receive no feedback.
So it has been said many times, but I would urge parents to just talk to their kids. This includes parents dealing with their own issues so they can be emotionally available to their kids, and not have any sort of mental blocks when it comes to talking to them. To be open and honest. And not just to say that you will be there for them, that is just words. Actually be there. It is well and good saying you can come and talk to me anytime, but if you are not there, then how can they do this?
How do you know if your child is feeling like running away?
Staying out later than agreed / pushing boundaries
Not wanting to come home from school, youth club or friends’ houses
Staying over at friends’ houses more frequently, or staying with other family members to avoid coming home
Playing truant, or doing less well at school
Behaving very differently – for example, acting more aggressively or becoming withdrawn
Developing new interests outside school, hanging around with a new crowd, or starting a new relationship
Showing signs of drug or alcohol abuse
Being very secretive when using the internet
Look out for it, Sadly, it’s much more common than you think. It’s estimated that a child runs away from home or care in the UK every five minutes. And it’s not only from the families you would expect. Good, strong, tight families face these issues too.
As Muslims we always think about the rights of the mother, and when we think of the rights of the children we think of breast feeding, and young children and then jump to marriage.
The final stage of Islamic Upbringing takes place during the ages of 15 to 21, and at this point the hard work of the community in working together to raise a child should manifest itself in the child’s conduct. Unfortunately, many families begin Islamic upbringing at this age! This is an ineffective method as we have witnessed and instead, during this stage, we should be reinforcing important ideas and behaviors taught in the first two stages. The Prophet has suggested that parents now act as a “friend” to their child rather than continue in the role of a teacher. However, we have seen some parents take this concept too far and are unable to remind their teenagers of Islamic answers to the typical teenage problems and concerns.
El-Kassem stresses the need to have one of the parents present on a daily basis for children. Too often, parents are busy providing “the good life” for their children on a material level (i.e. nice house, a car of their own when they turn 16, expensive clothes, etc.) by working, in some cases, two or three jobs.
However, they fail to spend time with their children and teenagers to provide the values which will form the base of their belief system and identity for the rest of their lives.
But a stay-at-home mom is not an overnight solution to raising practicing Muslim children. It is creating the right environment, which is the responsibility of both parents.
“If parents do not have the right environment at home and they don’t have good communication with their children that will lead the children not to really like the home [and] they wouldn’t care to associate with it,” says Ekram Beshir. She and her husband Mohamed Rida Beshir are the authors of the book “Meeting the Challenge of Parenting in the West: An Islamic Perspective”.
“Everyone is a unique person, so you cannot ask him to be the way you want him to be,” says Beshir.
Remember parents, the teen years are a time of struggle
Parents’ love and acceptance are crucial during the teens, when most youth, Muslim and non-Muslim, are struggling.
“They are struggling within themselves to understand the changes of puberty they are going through,” says Beshir. “They were just children a few years ago now they are trying to find their own new position in the family and society, in their own circle of friends or school or [amongst] neighbors. They need to feel they are not rejected. This drive to not feel rejected is so huge that he or she will do anything just to feel that he is being accepted,” she says.
Children are to be well-fed, well-groomed, properly dressed for the weather and for appearance, well-taken care of in terms of housing and utilities. However It is more important to offer the child comparable care in terms of educational, religious knowledge, and spiritual guidance. The heart of a child must be filled with faith. A child’s mind must be engraved with proper guidance, knowledge and wisdom. Clothes, food, housing, schooling are not, by any means, an indication of proper care of the child. Proper basic Islamic knowledge, education and guidance are far more important to a child than food, grooming and appearance.
One of the due rights of children upon their parents is their spending for their welfare and well-being moderately. Over-spending or negligence is not condoned, accepted or even tolerated in Islam.
Children also have the right to be treated equally in terms of financial gifts. No one should be preferred over the others. All must be treated fairly and equally. Depriving, or banning the right of inheritance, or other financial gifts during the lifetime of the parents or the preference of a parent for one child over the other is considered according to Islam as an act of injustice.
Injustice definitely leads to an atmosphere of hatred, anger and dismay amongst the children in a household. In fact, such an act of injustice may, most likely, lead to animosity amongst the children, and consequently, this will affect the entire family environment.
And it are these feelings which can lead to teens wanting to run away.
Railway Children helps and supports children under the age of 16 who have run away from home or are at risk of doing so.
you can also find them on twitter, so if you are a teen who is thinking of running away, or who has run away, or a parent, then The twitter handle for Railway Children is @RailwayChildren and please use #runningaway.
Aviva will be donating $2 to railway children for every facebook share, tweet, comment and reblog of this post! So get commenting!!