Talking with family and friends about gambling problems they may be having is difficult, but starting a conversation with a parent can be especially difficult. When talking to someone your own age, you need to speak with respect, start with questions, and reinforce how much you care about them. When talking to a parent, you need to work with the social hierarchy of the parent-child dynamic. When talking to a parent about their gambling habit, it’s good to keep some things in mind.
Decide why you want to have this conversation
What benefit will come out of having a conversation? Why would changing their gambling behaviors benefit their life? Below are two possible examples to answer these questions:
- Your parent wishes to enjoy a specific lifestyle, but you help with their finances and find that their gambling is affecting their ability to live their current lifestyle.
- Your parent has mentioned that it’s important to be able to be around to watch your children grow, but you’ve noticed that they’re not taking/purchasing their medications and you feel worried about their health and their future.
Focus on your purpose, and avoid scolding
Having a conversation about a parent’s problem gambling is about helping them understand your concerns. The conversation needs to steer clear of blaming, or scolding of any kind. For a constructive conversation, focus on your feelings, and your concerns for their health and their future. Focus on why you’ve decided to have this conversation, and help move the conversation in a positive direction by either keeping the conversation focused on those reasons, or taking a break when needed.
As your parent, they may see their place in life as to help guide you.
It may be difficult for your parent to accept criticism from you. Even if you’re an adult child of theirs, you’re still their child. Be a listening ear to their feelings and concerns to help foster a more constructive conversation about your concerns. If your parent feels heard and validated, they may be more open to a discussion about their gambling behaviors.
Parents want to be their children’s heroes
Beyond the parent-child dynamic, parents want to support their children. When the dynamic is changed the other way, it may be difficult for a parent to handle, and they may become defensive. Giving them time to process the conversation, the reassurance that you love them and that you’re here because you care for them, may help them feel more comfortable reaching out for help.
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
The conversation may not go smoothly. Be prepared to take breaks, be prepared for a backlash, but be prepared by remembering your reasons for having this conversation. This may be the first and only conversation, or it may be the first of many conversations. Everyone is different, every family is different, and every conversation will be different.
To better prepare yourself for a conversation about problem gambling with a parent, KNOW The ODDS contains many resources including some great videos for having conversations with adults and parents, such as Empty Spaces and Bet the House. You can always find additional help for either professional advice, or advice from another person who is a loved one of a person struggling with problem gambling through GAM-ANON. Although it may be difficult to talk to your parent about an issue like problem gambling, it’s important for you and your family members to raise their awareness and offer support as needed.