SINGAPORE - When a child runs away, it is an act that sends a few messages, said psychologist Daniel Koh.
"They might be running away symbolically from the problem so that they don't have to deal with it or face the consequences," he said.
Mr Koh, from Insights Mind Centre, said one example is if they fear disapppointing their parents with their examination results.
"It can also be a way of gaining some peace or personal time to sort out the problem.
"Some do it because they feel lost and confused, especially those who cannot express themselves well.
"If he feels that his needs are not being fulfilled, he would run away because he thinks no one cares or worries about him."
The most obvious sign of examination stress is a change in behaviour, Mr Koh said.
"A bubbly child might suddenly become restrained and refuse to spend time with the family.
"They might also display a lack of concentration and take a longer time to do something they used to be able to accomplish very fast.
"There might also be a change in the sleeping and eating patterns," he said.
Singapore Children's Society executive director Alfred Tan listed some possible reasons a child would run away from home:
- Inability to cope with the expectations set by parents or guardians;
- Family issues that may have resulted in the young person feeling helpless about getting support for his problems;
- Personal problems which may distract him from concentrating on his studies.
Mr Tan said that the child might be unnecessarily angry or upset during normal conversations with family members.
The child might also post hints of distress on blogs or Facebook, which parents or friends who have access to should monitor.
When faced with such situations, parents should talk to the child or meet his teachers to discuss a coping strategy.
Mr Koh added: "Parents must avoid being too caught up with their anxiety over exams to the point that they fail to see what the child is really going through.
"They should focus on the child and not the outcome in order not to miss the signs and symptoms that the child is displaying in order to express himself."
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