Gambling. It’s just something adults do, right?
In fact, thousands of adolescents gamble every day, as well. They buy lottery tickets where they shouldn’t be able do, they slip into casinos undetected, they participate in pools at the lunch table and they find other ways to place bets without their parents knowing. Studies show that the younger a child is introduced to gambling, the more at-risk they are.
Maybe you have a teenager who gambles – and gambles too frequently. How can you help them? And how can you focus your attention on this son or daughter without neglecting the needs of other children in the household?
Identify Adolescent Problem Gambling – and Its Consequences
Do you know the signs of a teenager’s gambling problem? Are you informed about the consequences that can occur due to one?
For an adolescent problem gambling can have devastating effects. Beyond losing money and possessions, they can lose close relationships with family members and friends. Borrowed and unreturned money can cause issues between teenagers and their classmates. The distraction of gambling can cause issues with schoolwork, grades and attendance, and the student may not keep up with his or her other responsibilities.
What about the consequences on the adolescents’ family members, specifically their brothers or sisters? When an addiction is recognized and a solution is sought, a lot of attention will be focused on the problem gambler. His or her siblings may feel ignored during this time. They may feel punished for following the rules and behaving properly, as now they don’t have the usual attention on them. They may feel anger at their sibling who has lied about his or her actions, or they may be hurt and scared.
Discuss the Situation with Each of Your Children Individually
Once a gambling problem has been identified, you will need to speak to each child individually. Your children may have questions they don’t feel comfortable asking in front of each other, especially in front of the adolescent that is gambling. Take time to speak to each individually to help answer their questions and ease their concerns.
They might want to know:
- What is a gambling problem?
- Is it bad?
- How did my brother/sister start gambling?
- Why can’t they stop?
- Are they in trouble?
- Am I going to have a gambling problem, too?
- What’s going to happen next?
A lot of attention will be paid to the problem gambler. Make sure your other children know that they can still come to you with their own questions and problems, just as they normally would. Your children shouldn’t feel pressure to hide their issues since you’re already dealing with the addiction of their sibling. Let them know you want to chat with them frequently to make sure they’re doing okay and to make sure they know they have not been forgotten.
Make a Plan that Involves Everyone
As you seek to help your gambling adolescent get help, you’ll want to involved the others in your family. Recovery is not a quick process – really, it never ends. Your whole family needs to be part of it.
Make a plan that addresses the following:
- How will we keep gambling out of our household?
- How will we help our family member stay in recovery?
- How can we all work to repair our relationships – trust one another, calm fears and end anger?
- What counseling options should family members consider, whether as individuals or all together?
- How can we make sure to increase communication among family members when there’s a problem?
If everyone is involved in the recovery process, it will lessen the likelihood your children will feel left out. Every family’s situation is different. Tailor your plan to maximize the happiness of your family members while caring for everyone’s needs and concerns.
Reduce the Risks of Problem Gambling by Your Other Children and Their Friends
Unfortunately, your children have been exposed to the consequences addiction at a young age. Now that this has happened, how can they benefit from this experience?
Use this time to educate your children about addictions of all kinds – what drives addiction, and what people become addicted to besides gambling, such as drugs and alcohol.
Educate your children on how to prevent gambling addictions, and how to raise awareness about the dangers of frequent gambling. Teach them about the risks and signs of addiction, so they know how to spot any problems their friends might have.
The gambling addiction of a child can cause a tremendous amount of stress and sadness among family members, but ultimately, the support of these family members will increase the chances of a successful and long-term recovery.
If you or your family member needs help with a gambling addiction, know where to find it. Call the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY to speak to a professional who can guide you toward support near you.