Problem gambling is a disorder that can strike anyone. It can affect people of any income level and any age.
Approximately two million Americans suffer from a pathological gambling problem, while another two to three percent have less significant, yet serious, problems with their gambling.
If your parent is spending an excessive amount of time gambling at the expense of family time, using gambling to cope with loneliness or other emotions or behaving in a secretive manner – especially in regard to finances – it may be a good indication that a problem exists. If this is the case, a direct conversation is the best way to express your concerns and offer support.
What to say to a parent with a gambling problem
It can be difficult to talk to a parent about finances, especially in relation to problem gambling. Nonetheless, you are in a unique position to assist your parent in receiving the help and care they need; you need to intervene for the sake of their psychological, emotional and financial health.
When beginning a conversation, remember to remind them how much you care and what you want them to do. By expressing your concern, you can also clarify your feelings regarding their gambling and make them accountable for their addictive behavior. Be specific, non-judgmental and offer to help.
Signs and Symptoms
A gambling disorder can be difficult to spot, but crucial to identify. If you suspect your parent is struggling with problem gambling behavior, keep in mind the following questions:
- Are they trying to be inconspicuous about their gaming?
- Are finance questions met with angry denials or evasive answers?
- Do they use the family dynamic – as in “I am your parent, not the other way around” – to dismiss your concerns?
If so, it may be worth investigating your suspicions more fully in a respectful and supportive manner.
Where can you get help for your parent?
One of the best ways to assist someone struggling with a gambling problem is to know the resources available to you.
The following resources are available:
One of the best ways to assist someone struggling with a gambling problem is to know the resources available to you. The following resources are available:
Minnesota Problem Gambling Program
- There are State funds available for treatment services to Minnesota residents who meet the clinical diagnosis for compulsive gambling and demonstrate financial need.
- State-approved treatment providers can be found at nojudgement.com and are listed by county, city. and provider.
- Call Minnesota’s 24-hour, toll-free, confidential help line at 1-800-333-HOPE or text HOPE to 61222.
Having trouble starting a conversation?
Each situation is different. To help, please read the tips.
CALL FOR CONFIDENTIAL HELP
Treatment is available free of charge for qualifying individuals throughout Minnesota.
PDF: Tips for Talking to a Parent About Problem Gambling
Tell them you’re concerned.
Express to them how important your relationship with them is and that you want them to get help for their problem gambling.
Example: _________, I need to talk to you about something serious. I’ve noticed recently that you haven’t been your usual self, and I’m concerned. Your relationship with me is very important, and I don’t want anything to damage it. I want to know if we can talk about what might be going on?
Be specific about your concerns.
Talking about finances with a parent can be difficult because of family dynamics, particularly in relation to problem gambling. Tell them how their gambling negatively affects their relationship with you. Be specific and use examples.
Example: I’m concerned about the extent to which gambling has become a part of your life and how it’s affecting our relationship. You are a very important part of my life.
Don’t judge, instead listen.
If you want them to hear you out, you need to give them the same courtesy. Allow them to speak their mind, and let them know you heard what they have to say.
Example: __________, I hear what you have to say and want to help you find a solution before the situation becomes worse.
Say what you want them to do.
As the younger generation, you are in a unique position to help your parent receive the help and care they need. You need to intervene for the sake of their psychological, emotional and financial health. Ask them to seek counseling or enroll in a gambling recovery group.
Example: I’d like to help you find a way to fix this. I know of a 24-hour, confidential hotline you could call (800-333-HOPE) and a few gambling recovery programs. I’d like us to explore one of these services.
Offer to help; explain why you care.
Remember to explain how much you care about them and what you want them to do. By expressing your concern, you can clarify your feelings regarding their gambling and make them accountable for their addictive behavior. Be non-judgmental and offer to help.
Example: I want you to know that I am here to help in any way I can. I wouldn’t have come to you if you weren’t so important to me. If you need support, you have someone you can count on.
Keep the door open for future talks.
There is a difference between being aggressive and being firm. You can be direct without alienating your parent. If you engage them in a hostile way, they will most likely shut down and ignore your attempts to help. Handle the subject with care so they feel like you are a resource in their recovery.
Example: __________, you are a good parent. You’re human. Let’s deal with this together. Take it one step at a time.