Dear Carolyn: I’ve been sharing an apartment with my stepsister, “Jenna,” for the past two years, but now I’m moving away and really looking forward to being on my own. Jenna is nice but spoiled and helpless, and always looking for me to bail her out or figure things out for her. She attached herself to my friend group and is devastated if we so much as have coffee without her.

Now she's talking about moving to the same city as me even though I've made it clear I don't need a roommate and my studio apartment will not have room for one. Her dad has promised to give her enough money to live on her own and my mom says there's nothing I can do about it, so I shouldn't say anything.

I’ve already told Jenna I’ll be busy with my new job and won’t have much time for her, but I’m sure she’ll be blowing up my phone wanting to meet up, wanting help with some issue, wanting wanting wanting. If I ignore her, she’ll whine to my mom, who will message me, point out that my stepdad paid her portion of my college tuition, and say I SHOULD BE NICE and help Jenna out. Is there any way out of this?

— Moving Away

Moving Away: Yes. Have the relationship with Jenna that you want, on your terms, and take the lumps from everyone for it.

Don’t be available for and responsive to every phone blowup, and let her whine to your mom, and let your mom message you. Tell your mom you are grateful for the tuition and you will also be nice to Jenna, but you will not be nice because her father covered your tuition and therefore has leverage.

Hold your line wherever you want to hold it. And do so without obligation or guilt. None.

Readers’ thoughts:

· You sound pretty young, which is NOT snark. If you learn to set and hold boundaries now, it will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. Family can be a hard place to start, but it is so worth it. I wish I had learned those skills when I was young instead of middle-aged.

They might try to pull you back into old ways, because that’s what they’re used to, but you are actually not doing them any favors by giving in. It would be a kindness (though she won’t think so) to let Jenna learn other coping methods when she needs help. It would be a kindness to your mom to take her out of the role of mediator by figuring out a polite response to guilt trips and repeating it over and over, kindly and firmly, until she figures out she’s wasting her time.

· This is in no way mandatory, but if you can set up a standing date with Jenna it might help. Maybe brunch every other weekend, something like that. Then when Jenna complains you can say — that doesn’t work, but look forward to seeing you Saturday. It might even help her calm down if she knows when she’ll see you next.