It is never easy to know when to have the “big talks” with your kids; be it about drugs, drinking, sex, or gambling. Each person is different, and each family is different. One thing that a parent can be sure of, however, is that open communication with children is always a good thing.
Children often begin to gambling at a very young age by participating in dares. Believe it or not, dares are a form of gambling because there will be a positive outcome (gain) for a successful dare, and a negative outcome (loss) for an unsuccessful dare.
Although many parents worry that their children will be forced to grow up too fast if they discuss difficult subjects like gambling, your child probably already knows more about gambling than you think. Of course, you are the best judge of your child’s readiness to learn about gambling. When you’re ready, here are some tips for discussing gambling:
- Educate yourself: You will be more helpful to your child if you are aware of the difference between healthy and problem gambling, and how to promote healthy habits.
- Listen: It is just as important that you listen to you child as it is that they listen to you. When you make yourself available as a safe listener during the early years, there is a better chance that your child will continue to communicate with you as they age.
- Be clear: Instead of saying, “Gambling is a terrible habit, and you will lose all of your money,” try to be more direct and specific: “Gambling can be fun sometimes, but there are some negative consequences of gambling as well. Can you tell me what might be a negative consequence of gambling?”
Children tend to think they are invincible. Using empty threats or trying to scare them might have the opposite reaction than what you desire: instead of gambling less, they might gamble more to defy you. Be realistic when discussing gambling – the outcome will be far better.
- Lead by example: Sometimes our words are different from our actions. Instead of asking your child to “do as I say, not what I do,” make a point of maintaining a healthy lifestyle yourself. You are an important role model for your child.
- Practice, practice, practice: Tough conversations will become easier the more you have them. Keeping open communication with your child at all time will make those tough conversations much easier when it’s time to have them.
- Give opportunities for successful choices and failures: Success and failure is a natural part of growing up. Each child is entitled to make mistakes, and as a parent, you can act as a safety net for those times of failure. If you suspect that your child has a gambling problem, do your best to offer support instead of judgment.