This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
Many people who want to change their gambling say they are worried about the impact it has on the children in their lives.
When a family member or someone they live with has a problem with gambling, children who are close to the situation may be affected.
For example, children may become confused about what is happening to an adult close to them who is acting out of character. The house may be neglected and become untidy, clothes may not be washed and meals may be missed. Sometimes the adult may spend extended periods of time away or their interest seems to be elsewhere.
Children can be impacted in different ways including:
- Coping Strategies – if an adult close to them is gambling to relieve stress or boredom, it can model to the child that gambling is a way to deal with problems i.e. you need to win money to pay bills. In the future, the child may do the same thing, rather than facing the issue head on. When big challenges come along in in their life, they may turn to gambling which can make things more difficult.
- Exposure to conflict – problematic gambling can result in conflict in the home. This may be due to increased stress from lack of finances, and issues of trust. Children who are exposed to high amounts of conflict may find it difficult to express emotions in an appropriate way. Sometimes this will be seen in behavioural problems, not doing so well at school or withdrawing from family life. There is a strong link between gambling and family violence, with around one third of people with gambling problems reporting being victims or perpetrators of family violence (Dowling, 2014).
- Less Resources – unmanaged gambling can go hand in hand with financial stress, and children can feel the impact of this. This may be due to there being less money for fun items and in some cases, even necessities. Growing up in an environment where there is financial instability can also impact a child’s sense of security and stability.
- Quality of Relationships – When caught up in a gambling problem, people may be less present and available. One of the biggest predictors of a child’s wellbeing is the quality of the relationship with adults who are close to them. Many people find that the time that they spend focusing on gambling means they have less time to interact with people around them, including children. This can be confusing and upsetting for kids, who don’t necessarily understand why they aren’t receiving attention.
Children by nature, can be quite resilient. Hopefully with time and care you will all be able to get back on track. Many people find they are deeply motivated by their children’s needs and it might be helpful to reflect on some of the impacts your gambling could be having on the children close to you and whether this may be motivation for change.
If you find that a child close to you is being affected, it might be helpful to call Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858.
Calling the helpline means you will be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can give you some confidential and free advice about how to manage this impact, and to engage you with some support for yourself.
There are also free financial counsellors who can help you develop some strategies to address your financial concerns or relationship counsellors who can help you begin to address any family impacts of your gambling.
People with gambling problems are more likely than people without gambling problems to be victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence. If you would like some support with this please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).