Young sister needs help to stop stealing

My younger sister, who is 13, is becoming a criminal. She steals from stores and from her friends. She even steals from us, her own flesh and blood.

Yesterday I found one of my jerseys in her cupboard, and underneath it were three of my favourite CDs. I had asked her if she had seen the items and she kept saying no. When she went to school I searched her cupboard and found my stuff. When I told my mother, she said that money has gone missing from her purse, and items have gone missing from the house.

A few weeks ago one of my sister's friends told me that no one wants to hang around with her after school because the only thing she wants to do is go to shopping malls to steal. I was very embarrassed.

I suspect my sister is stealing and selling the stuff, but I am not sure what she does with the money. I am too scared to ask her if she is stealing because she has a drug problem, and I am too afraid to talk to my mother about it without proof.

What should I do?

Concerned, Sandton

What you should do is sit down with your sister and talk to her about this today, not tomorrow.

Tell her that you caught her out, and tell her that you are aware that she is stealing from stores and from everyone close to her. Tell her that her criminal ways are pushing her friends away. Tell her that she faces growing up in a juvenile detention centre if she is caught. Tell her that it is only a matter of time before she is caught.

Tell her that a criminal record will be with her for life, and that her future will be destroyed by her present behaviour.

Try to speak to her without judgment and anger, and try to get to the bottom of why she is stealing. If she has a drug problem, she needs help, and the sooner you get her help the better. If she is stealing for other reasons, she still needs help.

If you are not able to get through to her on your own, then it is time for a family meeting.

You have enough "proof" after the conversation with her friend and after finding your things in her cupboard.

Your sister is showing signs of being deeply troubled, and she needs help and unconditional love from her family and those closest to her in order to make changes.

If you feel you are not able to do this on your own as a family, approach your minister or a school counsellor for help. Or send her to a therapist.

Do not ignore this and wait for a tragedy to happen. Do something now, today.