Parent Has a Problem


If your parent or guardian has a gambling problem, it may have changed your life in ways including:

  • A lot of arguing in your house
  • People in your family are often stressed, irritable or upset
  • Your family might be struggling financially
  • The parent with the gambling problem is not home often

These changes can make your home life more difficult, and you may be feeling all sorts of emotions you cannot control. Some of the things you may be feeling are:

  • Loneliness
  • Stress
  • Worry/Concern
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Anger
  • Resentfulness

As hard as it may be to handle, remember that you are not alone: these feelings are normal for everyone!

Recovering from a gambling problem
Gambling problems can be devastating, but with the right support and/or treatment the gambler can recover and lead a healthy life again. However, as with any addiction, people with gambling problems have to be ready before they can make a lasting change. People who are ready to get help can admit that:

  • They have a problem
  • They can’t stop on their own
  • They are ready to make major and difficult changes

Talking to your parent about their gambling
Remember: There is nothing you can say or do to make your parent stop gambling. You didn’t cause your parent’s gambling addiction, but you also can’t force them to get help (as discussed above, they have to be ready to seek help before they can recover).

However, if you feel comfortable and safe, you can express your concern. Talking things out with your parent can help you cope with the emotions you are feeling, and may help them to admit that they have a problem.

And if you don’t feel comfortable approaching your parent, that’s OK. Instead, you can try talking to someone else in your family who might be able to approach them on your behalf.

Tips for good communication:

  • Use specific examples of things you’ve noticed (ex: they are rarely home, and often gambling)
  • Tell them that you are worried about them, but try not to judge or accuse them
  • Give them examples of how their gambling is affecting you (ex: you are feeling lonely or depressed)
  • Tell them that they can recover with help. If they are willing, have them call 1-800-GAMBLER (426-2537) and they will receive free, confidential counseling services for their gambling.

If your parent is getting help
Try to be supportive and encouraging while your parent goes through treatment. Let them know how proud you are of the changes they’re making in their life, and how those changes have affected you for the better.

Recovering from addiction:

  • Recovery is a long and difficult process. No matter how well your parent is doing, setbacks will happen
  • Many people with gambling problems try several times before they can change their behavior for good
  • If your parent has setback, it’s not because of anything you said or did. You are never responsible for anyone else’s actions!

Taking care of yourself
If your parent isn’t ready to get help for their gambling problem yet, the best thing you can do is take care of your own feelings and safety. They can only be helped when they are ready. This is normal for all people with addictions, and has nothing to do with you.

Some things you can do to take care of yourself:

  • Be kind to yourself – do things you know you enjoy (listen to music, play sports, etc.)
  • Get support – Having a parent with a gambling problem can be difficult, especially if you feel like you have to handle it alone. You’ll feel less lonely – and have an easier time at home — if you surround yourself with people you feel understand and support you
  • Talk to someone you trust – A relative or close friend can help you figure out ways to help yourself and your family. It can also help to just vent about your feelings.
  • Call 1-800-GAMBLER (426-2537) – It’s not just for gamblers. Counselors at 1-800-GAMBLER know a lot about how gambling problems affect both the gamblers and their families, and can help you through your situation.

Remember: no matter what, you deserve love, care and respect.
If you feel like you are being neglected or that your safety is at risk because of a parent’s gambling problem, call the youth helpline at 1-800-843-5200 – they’ll help you figure out how to protect your health and safety.1

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