Q: My 13-year-old son is always picking on his 11-year-old brother. It bothers me, but my husband says boys will be boys. What should I do?
Helen B., University Heights, Ohio
A: Well, ask your husband what he would say if it were an older kid at school, instead of his brother, who was picking on your 11-year-old. Chances are he wouldn't take that so lightly. Most parents now recognize how detrimental bullying can be.
Being pushed around at home by an older sibling can be as damaging as being bullied at school. What's more, if the abuse is at home, there's little chance for the victim to avoid the bully, making it even more intense. Both forms of abuse (bullying at school and at home) create anxiety, self-doubt, low self-esteem, depression and suppressed rage in the victim. And bullying is a sign of emotional problems in the perpetrator, too.
Fortunately, you can straighten this out with direct intervention. Make it clear to your 13-year-old that his bullying behavior is never OK. And there need to be consequences if he does it — no TV time, no digital games, no allowance. But you and you husband also should talk about what may be motivating your older child. Are you playing favorites? Does your older child need more attention, more support? And discuss with each other (and perhaps with a professional counselor) how you can help your younger child learn to stick up for himself and to make it clear he won't tolerate the behavior.
Another great strategy: Start to spend special time with each child every week. And plan family activities so the kids can build positive memories together. If the problem continues, www.clevelandclinic.org offers great advice on managing sibling rivalry. Also, talk with your pediatrician. Then consider that it may be time to see a family counselor.
Q: My uncle seems to have restless leg syndrome. At first I just thought he should exercise more and shake it off. But I've done some research; shouldn't he be under a doctor's supervision?
George J., Harrisburg, Pa.
A: Getting a diagnosis is always the first smart step. If it is WED/RLS — restless leg syndrome, now officially called Willis-Ekbom disease — it can be serious. Researchers have discovered that this neurological disease, somewhat like Parkinson's, ups the risk for early mortality by 39 percent. In addition, symptoms such as a painful throbbing in the legs along with an overwhelming urge to move (usually while trying to rest or sleep) are sometimes complicated by respiratory disease, kidney problems or health issues that cause metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity).
Fortunately WED/RLS symptoms can be dealt with effectively. Iron supplements and medications may reduce symptoms. And you were right, regular exercise does help reduce symptoms by 40 percent or more. Your uncle could ride a stationary bike for at least 30 minutes a day. Not only will it help him with WED/RLS, it may ease associated conditions such as metabolic syndrome.
Also, there is a genetic component to WED/RLS. If it turns out your uncle does have the condition, it's essential that you start exercising regularly if you don't already.
Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen is chief wellness officer and chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email your health and wellness questions to Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen at youdocsdaily (at sign) sharecare.com.
King Features Syndicate