Ask the experts - Spring 2020

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  • Spring 2020
  • Ask the experts

Difficult behaviour

Q: Some grandparents are called on or respond to parents having problems with very difficult children whose behaviour is tearing apart the family. An example might be children with ODD, known as Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Can you provide some direction and resources for grandparents caught up in this very difficult situation?

— Stewart

A: ODD and related behavioural conditions can be the cause of major disruption in a family, and it’s important to get on top of managing these behaviours as early as possible. Some good ideas for behaviour management as well as referral options for professional assistance can be found here.

I would also add that caregivers for children with ODD need to be extremely consistent in their responses to unwanted behaviours - presenting as a united front is paramount.

Also, some children with ODD respond better to directives if they “appear” to not come directly from the carer themselves. Rather than suggesting you are responsible for the ground rules/expectations, you can frame your requests in such a way that implies the rules are beyond your control.

For example, rather than “I need you to get out of bed to be at school by 9am”; reframe that to “the school starts at 9am, there’s nothing they can do to change that, we must be there on time.”

Answered by Dr Rachael Sharman, Senior Lecturer in Psychology University of the Sunshine Coast

Unsound sleep

Q: I think my partner (65) has sleep apnoea. He has snored as long as I have known him and I’m used to it but the past 18 months or so it has gotten worse. I have noticed him stopping and starting breathing in his sleep and I have to sometimes give him a good shove to get him breathing properly, which he doesn't appreciate! We have discussed this but he doesn’t think it is a problem (probably because he is sleeping through it) and won't see the doctor about it. If I order him one of those breathing masks will it fix the problem? — Ingrid

A: It is almost certain he has sleep apnoea and it is a problem well worth pursuing. Not only is his snoring disturbing but also the gaps in his breathing are because his throat is obstructing during sleep. These obstructions can be partial or complete and can occur hundreds of times overnight, disturbing sleep, lowering oxygen levels and placing stress on the body. As a result, sleep is less refreshing than it should be and other health issues may arise, including problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and depression. Activities that require alertness, such as driving, are impaired and the risk of having an accident goes up. People with sleep apnoea feel older than they should. Your partner needs to discuss this problem with his doctor soon. A simple overnight test will confirm the diagnosis and, importantly, determine just how severe the issue is.

Answered by Dr David Hillman, Sleep Health Foundation

Game, set, gossip

Q: Okay here's a question for an expert or your members out there. I am one of four sisters, and one of them is the worst gossip I have ever met and always has been. For the most part we get along but recently she has become friends with one of my tennis partners and I have been seeing her weekly at the club. As is the way with her she is talking out of school about me once again and it has gotten back to me. I am just so over it. Should I confront her about it? My husband says leave it alone but I am reaching boiling point.

— T.L

A: I completely understand how you must be feeling as I have a friend who loves a good gossip, and it can be upsetting when you are the person being talked about. In my opinion, people who love to gossip don't have a lot going on in their lives, which is why they have nothing better to discuss. While saying something may make you feel better momentarily, will it change her behaviour? I would think probably not. If you do decide to speak up, make sure you are calm and don't throw any of the people who have told you what she is saying about you under the bus—you don't want any collateral damage. But also know that confronting her may give her more fuel to add to her fire. The advice of 'taking the high road' may seem trite but it shows your mutual friends that you are above petty gossip. In the long run I'm sure they will see through your sister's stories.

Answered by Lorrayne D, National Seniors member