Toxic home environment, parental control drive teens to run away

06 Apr 2024 10:00am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - Teenagers who endured oppressive home environments would seek freedom and solace elsewhere due to toxicity or overbearing parental control, thus resulting in runaway cases.

To gain a deeper insight into the experiences of those who have ran away from home, Sinar Daily reached out to two women who, during their teenage years, grappled with personal issues at home that ultimately compelled them to leave their family.

One of them who only wanted to be identified as Mia, 26, shared her story of the challenges she faced trying to cope with her toxic family members which became the main reason why she decided to run away from home.

"As time passed, our household environment grew increasingly toxic, due to frequent confrontations and arguments, making it unbearable for me to continue living there.

"This led to my decision to run away as I was overwhelmed by the unbearable toxicity at home.

"It drove me into a deep state of depression. I found myself attempting suicide many times in a desperate bid to escape the relentless verbal abuse and emotional turmoil," she said.

She was 18 at that time.

Mia said one of the biggest challenges she faced after deciding to escape home was the lack of emotional support.

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However, she said she was fortunate enough to eventually have some friends who came to know about her situation and offered her support during the difficult time.

"Their presence and encouragement meant a lot to me and helped me navigate through the challenges I encountered while I was away from home" she added.

She said she there were no circumstances that made her second-guess her choice to run away as she did it to break free and survive the toxic atmosphere at home.

This, she said was necessary for her to regain clarity and protect her mental well-being from deteriorating.

"Looking back, I did not regret my decision as it was crucial for my well-being at that time," she said.

Mia said since she ran away from home, her relationship with her family underwent significant changes.

While she has moved on from the incident, Mia said the scars from the past still lingered.

She said she was in the process of patching things up with her family.

"Thankfully, my family members are also making efforts to change and improve for the sake of our family.

"We are gradually working towards healing and rebuilding trust, but it is a journey that requires time, patience and continuous effort from all parties involved," she said.

As someone who once ran away from home as a teenager, Mia said she believed there were several ways parents and guardians could better support and communicate with their children to prevent such situations.

She emphasised how crucial it was to build trust with children so they could be honest about their feelings and feel that they could depend on their family and be respectful towards one another.

"When teenagers feel valued and respected, they are more likely to confide in their parents and seek their guidance.

"Open communication is also key. Parents should actively listen to their teenager's concerns, thoughts and feelings without judgement, creating opportunities for regular conversations where they feel comfortable expressing themselves.

"I think validating your children's emotions is essential. Even if parents do not agree with their teenager's perspective, it is important to acknowledge and respect their feelings.

"Parents should also recognise and respect their teenager's need for autonomy while providing guidance and support when needed," she said when contacted.

She added that providing emotional support to children was crucial.

"If you are going through tough times or thinking about running away from home, reach out to someone whether it is another family member or a friend as having someone to confide in can make a big difference," she said.

A 30-year-old women who only wanted to be identified as Zira recounted her experience of running away from home at the age of 17.

She said all her life she has been following what her parents had wanted for her to the point that she felt depressed and trapped.

Overwhelmed by the feeling that her parents were constantly trying to dictate her life, she made the decision to leave home.

"At that moment after completing my SPM exams, I felt like my parents did not understand me at all. Despite knowing that I wanted to pursue my studies at a local unversity as it offered a course I wanted to study in, they insisted on me applying to another university which did not offer the programme I wished to enrol in.

"Their insistence felt like they were steering my life in a direction contrary to my aspirations.

"Despite my efforts to communicate my wishes, our disagreement persisted, leaving me frustrated and unheard," she said.

Following that, in a moment of heated emotion after an argument with her parents, Zira made the impulsive decision to leave home.

She said she contacted a friend in Perak to pick her up from a nearby train station.

"Before leaving, I left a letter for my mother, expressing my emotions and to ensure that she would not worry excessively about my absence. I just wanted to space to clear my mind, away from family pressures and pursue my own path.

"However, after a few weeks away, I returned home as it did not feel right to be away from my family. After all they are my parents who have raised me. But I just wished that they understood me and let me make decisions for my life instead of always having to have it their way," she said.

Reflecting on the past, Zira said she realised that her parents only wanted to do what they believed was best for her but they forgot to think about how she felt.

"I've learned from my own experience how important it is for parents to understand their children's feelings and desires.

"Now, as a parent myself I don't want my kids to ever feel like they have to escape from their own home just to find peace. I want them to know that they can always come to me, that I'll be there to listen and help them through whatever they're going through.

"So, I'm determined to be the kind of parent who creates an open, supportive environment for my children. I want them to feel safe and loved, knowing that they can always be themselves around me and hopefully, with that kind of understanding and support, they won't ever feel the need to run away.

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