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Tips for Parents

If you are having trouble with your teen, you are not alone. The following tips provide helpful information for parents - whether you are afraid your child might run away, or if your child has already left home.

  • Warning Signs

    It is easy to confuse signs of trouble with the usual teenager turmoil. When real problems occur, behaviors listed below usually come in clusters.

    • Changes in sleep patterns: excessive fatigue, early morning awakening, inability to sleep, excessive sleeping.
    • Personality changes: abrupt mood swings, excessive blow-ups triggered by small things, apathy, boredom, irritability, preoccupation with a single thought.
    • Withdrawal from the family: Growing isolation, increased violation of house rules, avoidance of family gatherings even at meals.
    • School problems: failing grades, truancy, cutting classes, fights and disciplinary problems.
    • Withdrawal from friends: fall outs with friends, hostility toward former friends, new (older) friends, reluctance to introduce parents to new friends.
    • Difficulty coping with family transitions: prolonged reaction to loss or stress from death, divorce, illness, loss of job, a move to another city.
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  • If Your Child Is Missing
    • Think clearly - where might your child be?
    • Contact as many people as you can when trying to find your child. Keep a record of who you contact. Ask your child's friends, teachers, coaches for ideas.
    • Look for clues. Check your child's room for signs of preparation.
    • Check neighborhood hangouts.
    • Take action. File a missing person's report with local police and ask them to put information into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer.
    • Contact your local youth shelters. Bill Wilson Center can be reached at (408) 243-0222.

    If your child calls, remember to remain calm. Show love and concern. If they are not ready to return home, give them the phone number of Bill Wilson Center or the National Runaway Switchboard (1-800-RUNAWAY). Remember to tell them that they can enter any Safe Place location to get help.
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  • When Your Child Returns

    Running is your child's cry for help. Unresolved family conflicts can lead to frequent running. It is a good idea to seek family counseling to solve the problems that led to your child running away. Prevent future runaway episodes by getting help now.
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  • Where To Find Help
    • Youth shelters. In addition to offering housing, shelters often provide services for families to help resolve family conflict.
    • Community counseling centers
    • Your child's school counselor
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  • How Do Youth Shelters Help Parents?

    Bill Wilson Center is an agency that supports family unity and assists youth in working out their own solutions to problems. Youth shelters can help parents prevent a runaway episode by helping you to discuss your concerns or the warning signs you've identified with experienced staff. Shelter staff can direct you to appropriate services, which may or may not include shelter.

    • Shelters can provide a time-out to reduce tensions when family conflicts are reaching a boiling point.
    • Shelters can help if your child has left home. Shelter staff can assist and direct you to local and national resources that could be a resource for you.
    • Shelters can help when your teen returns home by providing family counseling directly or through referrals to other agencies.

    Bill Wilson Center has parent support groups and a family counseling center which can help you find the appropriate support.
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  • How Do Youth Shelters Help Teens?
    • Shelter staff understand and are willing to listen to teens who are confused and/or upset.
    • Shelters can be an option when you can't stay with friends or other family members and don't know where else to go.
    • Shelters can give you a safe place to sleep, a shower, and something to eat.
    • Bill Wilson Center provides short term shelter and counseling for teens who have already left home. At Bill Wilson Center, teens are safe and are assisted in resolving the problems that caused them to run.
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  • How can I find a local shelter?

    If you don't know how to get to Bill Wilson Center or other local youth shelters you can look for a Safe Place and ask them for help. You can also call the National Runaway Switchboard and they will get you in touch with the shelter program closest to you.
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  • Preventing Problems with Your Children
    • Spend time with each of your children. Listen to them. Be nonjudgmental and give them your full attention.
    • Take their concerns seriously. Your child's fears and worries are real.
    • Make their concerns and issues your top priority.
    • Be direct, firm and calm when you confront problem areas.
    • Be clear about consequences for unacceptable behavior. Make sure consequences are age appropriate.
    • Visit your child's classroom and talk to their teachers.
    • Know the parents of your child's friends. Have phone meetings with those parents to discuss planned activities. For example, decide with the friend's parents who will provide transportation, what time is the curfew, the location of the activity. Find out if it is a group activity of youth only or if the activity will include only your child and their friend.
    • When appropriate, seek professional counseling.
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