Is someone in your family struggling with problem gambling? Are you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do? If so, we can help.
Having a family member such as your spouse, sibling, adult child, or parent struggle with problem gambling can be a very stressful experience.
You love this person and you want to help. If this is your partner or your parent, you may be feeling particularly frustrated or desperate.
You too are suffering from the negative consequences of problem gambling such as family turmoil, and physical and emotional stress.
You may depend on this person for financial and/or other means of support and their problem with gambling may be putting you in jeopardy.
The BC Responsible & Problem Gambling Program can help you cope with your situation.
All support services offered through the Program are free to British Columbians. Program counsellors can also connect you to additional services in your community, if you need free financial or legal advice.
Call the BC Problem Gambling Help Line at 1.888.795.6111 (24hrs) to be connected to free support services in your area. If services aren’t based on your area, distance services will be arranged at no cost to you.
Remember, what’s happening with your family member is not your fault.
Talking to your Family Member about their Gambling
- Try not to judge them or use judgmental language; this will only make the person defensive. Problem gamblers feel vulnerable already.
- Offer support, caring, and information about the help that is available.
- Tell the person specifically how their actions are affecting you and your family.
- Let them know you will support them in their efforts to regain control.
- If your finances are linked, you may need to take immediate action to protect yourself and your family.
What to Tell the Children
Whether they are told directly or not, children are very perceptive about problems in their own homes. Parents are generally better off providing their children with some information about a family crisis rather than leaving the children to piece the information together in their own way. Without adult intervention, children typically settle on explanations that focus on how they have caused the problem and may experience undue guilt and stress.
Children need to be provided with age-appropriate information. Parents may need help in determining appropriate language to use for different age groups. They need to know how to create a relaxed atmosphere for a discussion with the children. In a calm and reassuring way, children need to know that:
- An adult problem is taking up their parent’s energy right now;
- The adults will deal with the problem;
- The children will be taken care of;
- The child’s job is to continue being a child;
- They are allowed and will be encouraged to ask questions, and the parents will try to answer appropriately; and
- Some questions will not have immediate answers.
Children do not need to know the details of financial losses, debts, and pressures. Information provided to children may not even specify gambling as the problem, but will help children understand that problems are related to money. Children may need to be advised that the family is operating under new financial restraints that will take some getting used to. Adults should not expect children to remain aware of this over time and will need to remind them of the situation as financial decisions arise.