DR. WALLACE: I'm 17 and really need your help. I come from a good family (my dad's a teacher) and I'm not desperate for money.
Still, I shoplift regularly. I've been shoplifting for more than three years and I've never been caught, but sometimes I think it would be good if I had been. Most times I steal things that I really don't need or want and when I get home I always feel guilty after a visit to a department store.
It really is easy to shoplift and I just can't seem to resist the temptation. I am a good student and plan to go to college. I really want to get rid of this habit — and soon. I don't want a criminal record, and the embarrassment to my family if I were apprehended would be unbearable. Please help me! — Nameless, Philadelphia, Pa.
NAMELESS: Admitting that you have a problem and asking for advice is the first step on the road to solving your problem. To stop shoplifting, you must really want to do so, and be willing to make substantive lifestyle changes.
For instance, don't go shopping alone. Don't window shop. Only visit department stores when you intend to purchase a specific item. Never carry a purse, only a wallet.
To prove to yourself that you are truly turning over a new leaf, you must rid your life of anything you have that was stolen. If the item has never been used, you can mail it back to the store. If it has been used, give it to the Salvation Army or some other charitable organization, ensuring that a needy person will get some use out of it.
Finally, it the impulse to shoplift is too strong for you to overcome on your own, seek help from a professional counselor. Prayer will also help, regardless of your religious beliefs, or lack thereof.
HE IS YOUR FATHER FOREVER
DR. WALLACE: Recently a girl wrote that her parents were divorced and her father comes to see her every Saturday morning. She said she loved her father, but his four-hour visits were infringing on her free time. You suggested that father and daughter do some meaningful things together at other times during the week instead of being locked into a 9 .m. to 1 p.m. time frame every Saturday. That was a good suggestion, but I think the girl is missing the point. I sure wish I had her problem.
I'm 15 and my parents have been divorced for four years. My mom received custody of me, and my dad used to visit me once every two weeks. I really looked forward to seeing him. We would go out to eat, see a movie and go shopping. It was great fun and I loved my dad very much.
Then my dad met a lady and soon after, he stopped seeing me. She and my dad are now married, and I haven't heard from him in over two years. He didn't even bother to send me a birthday card on my past two birthdays. I was seriously ill a year ago and my dad didn't even call to find out how I was doing even though he was told that I was in the hospital. He still lives in town. I guess he doesn't care if I live or die. Even though he has forgotten me, I still love him very much.
I'd like to tell this girl to enjoy every minute she shares with her father. These are moments that can never be replaced. —Nameless, Lake Charles, La.
NAMELESS: Thanks for sharing your story with our teen readers. I hope your father reads your letter and once again becomes a responsible parent. He was a father long before he met his new wife and he is your father forever.
DR. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.