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Q: One year ago my stepson began stealing things from his mother. The behavior has continued, and recently he once again pulled a major heist and denied any knowledge to his mother. I found the stolen items in his room, and together his mother and I confronted him with the evidence. He continued to deny at first, then admitted to stealing things from us to sell for pocket money. His lying, stealing, and misbehavior has pushed his mother to the point where she no longer wants him in the house and is looking for a boarding school to take him in. He is 14 and failed seventh and eighth grades, but was in advanced classes. How can we help this child?
A: You are wise to want to get help for your stepson as soon as possible. He is already exhibiting some very risky behaviors and he needs your help to get back on the right track.
You don't mention trying to get counseling for him before this, but you need to pursue that right away. Talk with the school counselor. You will probably want to get help for your stepson outside the school, and the counselor or your pediatrician can refer you to a therapist in your community. Ask for a therapist who is comfortable working with the entire family as well as with your stepson, as you and his mom need help to know how best to deal with his issues.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.