Dear Amy:

I have an embarrassing problem. My 12-year-old sister, who happens to be more athletic, therefore stronger than me, always hits me, passing it off as playing around, but this "playing" has left bruises on my arms and back more than a few times.

I've told her that she is too rough, but because I'm the older sister (I'm 17), she thinks I'm joking when I tell her this. Sometimes, she calls me a "wimp" or a "sissy," because I tell her to stop being so rough.

I want to avoid asking my mom to stop her. After all, that would make me seem like the little kid my kid sister thinks I am. Plus, it would be incredibly embarrassing to tell my mother what's going on. Do you have any advice, preferably humiliation-free, on how to deal with this situation?

Embarrassed Older Sister

If your little sister were an older brother, beating you hard enough to bruise you, I think we'd all feel comfortable calling this "abuse." Guess what -- your little sister isn't an older brother -- and it's still abuse. I know this is extra tough on you because you find it embarrassing, but you need to be brave enough to face the fact that your sister is using her strength and power to hurt, bully and intimidate you.

First, she needs to stop and then she needs to be educated about how to behave.

You don't say how close you are to your mother, but, speaking as a mom, if anyone -- even one of my children -- was beating one of my other children, I guarantee you that I would want to know about it.

The worst thing to do would be to stay silent. Your continued silence will hurt both you and your sister. At 12, she is old enough to understand what she is doing and that violence is wrong. You should tell your sister that her beatings are not "playing" and that you won't accept them any longer. Have a serious talk with your mother and tell her what has been happening and how it makes you feel. If your mother doesn't take this seriously and if it continues, you should speak with someone outside your immediate family that you trust who may be able to intervene.

Dear Amy:

My boyfriend of four months has just broken up with me. He was my first boyfriend. He broke up with me by e-mail, and I was appalled. Amy, he said that he didn't want to break up with me in person because he didn't want to see me cry, but I think that was his way of being cowardly. He informed me that he has not liked me for the past two weeks and was waiting to drop the bomb on me until the end of the school year.

How can I deal with my sadness and forgive my ex? We will be in school together for the next two years.

Brokenhearted

I prescribe scented candles, Jewel or Joni Mitchell CDs and some weepy moments with girlfriends.

I hope you won't focus too much on him and instead work on how to feel good about yourself. By the time you get back to school, I certainly hope that this guy is a little grease spot of a memory on the pavement of your dreams.

Okay, I'm not as poetic as Jewel or Joni, but you catch my drift.

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