Help for gambling addiction is available

Our nation has embraced gambling. A recent national study estimated that nearly 70 percent of Americans aged 14 to 19 gambled in the past year. Adults and teens gamble to have fun and win money. There are many people who will not be able to control their gambling. An estimated 2 percent to 7 percent of teen gamblers experience a gambling addiction, as compared to 1 percent of adults.

Warning signs your young adult may have a gambling problem are: a low mood or feelings of anxiety, stealing money, and appearing preoccupied.

These behaviors could indicate other difficulties such as alcohol and other drug use.

Research shows parents have the power to influence their kids in how they respond to risky activities.

1) Start early. Children often begin gambling activities in grade school. Parenting practices will be most effective if started during the “tween” years, ages 9 to 13. If they don’t hear the information from you first, they’ll get it from someone/something else (friends, media, etc.). These sources may not be the ones you want your teen to believe or rely on for advice.

2) Families with specific, consistent and reasonable rules have fewer problems with risky behavior.

3) Know your children’s whereabouts. Know their friends, but avoid making them feel controlled.

4) Make sure you listen so you learn what is going on in your child’s life. Let them know that they can come to you with anything.

5) The next time there is a mega-millions lottery winner, take the opportunity to discuss with your child the reality of that winning. Just remember discussion is a two-way street. Respect their opinions.

6) Parental involvement is a critical factor in helping a teen from engaging in risky behavior. It can include having friends at your home, attending their activities, encouraging them to become involved in activities, reporting questionable activities to the proper authorities.

Parenting is a big responsibility. If you think your teen might have a problem, get an appointment with your school social worker, guidance counselor, and/or doctor. Your child should be assessed for a range of problems. Recovery from gambling addiction or dependence is possible.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, call the national problem gambling helpline at 1-800-5622-4700 or the HFM Prevention Council at 736-8188.

Yvonne Major


The writer is a prevention educator for HFM Prevention Council.