Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My parents have been divorced for six years. I am 11, and I have a sister who is 15.

Since our parents divorced, my sister and I fight a lot more, but I still look up to her for everything. Mom's and Dad's sides of the family constantly question us to see which one is better. Without my sister telling me what to say, I might say the wrong thing.

I love my parents, but I hate it when each of them asks questions about the other instead of enjoying our company. It's just not fair. What do you think? -- SICK AND TIRED OF FIGHTING, GREENVILLE, TEXAS

DEAR SICK AND TIRED OF FIGHTING: I sympathize with your predicament. No one wants to be caught in the middle, and to put you there at your tender age is very unfair. Your parents -- and many others -- could benefit from the following list of "Do's and Don'ts" for divorcing couples with children that appeared in my column years ago. Read on:

First, the DO's:

-- Do allow your children to ask questions about your divorce. It's unfair to make them feel like outsiders.

-- Do answer all their questions about your divorce as truthfully as possible, without making the other parent the "heavy."

-- Do remember that your children need the love of both parents.

-- Do assure your children that they are not to blame for your divorce.

-- Do encourage your children to talk freely about their feelings -- even if it's painful to you. Bottling up emotions is even more damaging to children.

-- Do have a special place for your children's toys and belongings during visiting time. It will make them feel more at home.

Now, the DON'Ts:

-- Don't badmouth the other parent to your children, or to anyone else in their presence.

-- Don't send messages to the other parent through your children.

-- Don't ask your children to keep secrets from your ex-spouse.

-- Don't be overly generous (or less strict) in an effort to win your children's approval.

-- Don't tell your children what to think or feel. They are entitled to their own thoughts and feelings.

-- Don't try to pump your children for information about your ex-spouse. -- BEEN THERE IN ST. LOUIS

DEAR ABBY: I'm only a kid, but I really need your help. I want a dog. A collie. They get along with other animals and don't need a lot of exercise. The problem is that my parents hate dogs.

They say I can have as many dogs as I want when I grow up, but I can't wait that long. Almost everyone I know has a dog. I have $375, so I can afford to buy one and pay for its food and shots. Abby, how can I change my parents' minds? -- DOG-DEPRIVED IN DENVER

DEAR DOG-DEPRIVED: There is no way I can change your parents' minds for you. If I could, I would. However, if you volunteer at an animal shelter or local veterinarian's clinic, you could fill some of the void you are feeling.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600