Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Fears Sister Is in Abusive Relationship

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently started suspecting that my sister is involved in an abusive relationship. This wouldn't be her first time dealing with a toxic partner, but I thought she would have used her past experiences to never return to the same situation. I am not 100% sure, but there are a few signs that I am picking up on that let me know that things aren't going well for her. For instance, I noticed she had two broken nails wrapped up in a bandage. When I gently asked her about the situation, she told me it was her boyfriend who was the cause. She explained how they were just playing, and he's too rough at times. This doesn't sit well with me. I don't want to overstep my boundaries because she always protects his image and would get defensive if I accused her boyfriend of such a serious thing. However, I want to find out for sure if she really is in an abusive situation. How can I help find out and help my sister, without it being too obvious? -- In Danger

DEAR IN DANGER: Unless you physically witness your sister’s boyfriend hurting her, it will be difficult for you to prove anything. What you can do is talk to your sister and remind her how much you love and appreciate her. Tell her that you are worried about her well-being and that you hope that she will tell you if she ever feels unsafe or is in trouble. Tell her that you will do whatever she needs to help keep her safe. Encourage her to do things with you and with friends outside of the relationship. Resist the temptation to judge her. Be a good listener.

You can also suggest she learn more about getting support by calling 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). You can read more at

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old. My 5-year-old has been in preschool and is picking up bad habits from other kids. One of her teachers explained to me that there is a kid in her class bullying and hitting my child whenever the kid is upset. When my daughter comes home from school, she in turn hits my youngest daughter out of anger whenever she gets in trouble.

I hate how she learned this bad behavior and practices it at home with her sister. I also hate that she is going through this at her school. The teacher said this has been going on for a while, but I'm confused as to why she hasn't taken the appropriate steps to stop it. What can I do as a mother to change this situation? -- No More Bullying

DEAR NO MORE BULLYING: Talk to the school administrator immediately to find out why this bullying has not been handled and reported to you earlier. You should have been told at once. It is negligent of the teacher to have allowed this to continue.

You should look for another preschool in which to place your child. It is not worth it for her to have to endure this behavior. At the same time, you need to talk to her about managing her anger so that she unlearns that bad behavior.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)