Parents (and educators) will list drugs, alcohol, bullying, sex and grades among their concerns for their children. The list is incomplete if it does not include gambling. Could your child have a gambling problem or the beginnings of one? We know that many children are introduced to gambling at a young age, often innocently, since the adults in their lives have no knowledge of the potential consequences.
Gambling may be part of their parents’ social lives or vacations, or perhaps members of the family gamble on sports, play poker, buy lottery tickets or “scratch offs”, go to racetracks or casinos, or gamble on the internet. Children receive the message that gambling is great fun and if you are lucky or good at it, you can make lots of money gambling.
Even if there are none of these activities in the home, our children receive this message through a variety of media. Even seemingly harmless internet games introduce children to the “fun”, “challenging” and “winning” experiences of gambling. Gambling is easily accessible on computers, tablets and mobile phones in formats that many adults are not even familiar with.
Some children may be unaffected by all of this, but some could be. It is very difficult to know in advance which ones this might be. When the invisible line is crossed from social gambling to problem or addictive (compulsive) gambling, it is a life altering change for the gambler and loved ones. Compulsive gambling is not just about the money won or lost, but also about the drastic changes in behavior and the growing unmanageability of everyday life.
Our experience with our own compulsive gamblers has taught us that compulsive gambling can begin at any age. Many of our gamblers, men and women, began gambling in childhood. Based on our experience and the numbers of parents of teens and young adults joining our meetings, we believe that gambling has a place among the list of parents’ concerns.
What are the signs that your child may have a problem with gambling?
1. Does your child spend more time on the computer or mobile devices than doing school work, regular chores at home, or sleeping?
2. Have you noticed changes in your child’s personality, including frequent mood swings?
3. Are you uncomfortable with your child’s friends and their activities together?
4. Has your child lost interest in activities he or she once enjoyed?
5. Have your child’s grades slipped?
6. Is your child missing school or classes?
7. Does your child work, but never seems to have money and never seems to buy anything?
8. Have you been missing money or thought you have been misplacing items in the house?
9. Does your child spend a lot of time watching and listening to sports or playing cards?
10. Does your child have an intense reaction during sporting events when one team is losing?
11. Would your child rather play computer games than participate in family activities or be with friends?
12. Does your child seem to be angry for no reason?
13. Does your child promise to never gamble again and then gamble?
14. Does your child lie about where he or she has been and who else was there?
15. Does your child lie about other things?
16. Has your child become secretive?
If you think your child may have a gambling problem, you are welcome to come to a Gam-Anon meeting. The Gam-Anon members, including parents, will share their experience with you. Gam-Anon is a fellowship of those affected by someone else’s gambling problem whether or not the gambler acknowledges the problem.