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Gambling  is an addiction and those implicated may require  professional help to overcome their addiction. Gambling can affect the functioning of family relationships. 

The entire family can suffer as a result of the behaviour and thinking of the gambling addict. The severity of how each family is impacted on depends on the severity of the gambling problem and how long it has gone on for.  This can result in serious financial, psychological, emotional and legal problems for the family unit, completely undermining family functioning, often to the point of a collapse.

Living with a Problem Gamble

It can be enormously difficult to live with a partner who is gambling. Where a parent is gambling, protecting the children can be  difficult as children will naturally look towards their parents for their security and emotional support. The non-gambling parent will generally try to cover up the problem from their children and this in turn may affect the children’s sense of well being and security within the family. So, when a parent is unable to provide this support for their child because of a gambling addiction, the child may feel a sense of insecurity and pick up on this uncertainty in the home unit. Sometimes children will then seek attention from their parents by engaging in negative behaviours to get their attention. Such behaviours may include using alcohol or drugs, or breaking the law.

Children of gambling parents may handle the situation in different ways. They may become angry or depressed or anxious when their parents make promises they can’t keep. The most common issue with gambling parents is lack of money, resulting in financial crisis for the parents.

The family may have accumulated a lot of debts and the children may feel disappointed with their parents for not providing for their needs. Sometimes older children will  attempt to take care of  younger children because their parents are emotionally unavailable due to being stressed out with the pressure of the gambling problem. This in turn can impact negatively on their mental and physical well being. They may feel stigma and shame and this can cause relationships to break down outside the home. Other pressures can also impact, for  example  borrowing money from friends and failing to pay it back, or withdrawing from peers so that they can hide their difficulties at home.

The children of problem gambling parents are also at a much higher risk of developing gambling problems than children of non-gambling parents. It is has become easier than ever before for children and teenagers to gamble online, with young people today  being the most tech savvy of their generation so far. It is important to be vigilant for signs of gambling in young people. 

Seeking Support

If you are a parent with a partner affected by gambling, try and seek help and avail of the relevant support services. Seek advice about your situation and how to improve it. It is important to restore trust again with your family members including your children. It is vital that you as a parent help your children understand that the gambling parent’s problems are not their fault. Your children may need a lot of emotional support and reassurance from you to help them understand the situation and also that you as their parents are getting help and support for the problem and trying to rebuild the family unit.

Parents as well as children may benefit from family therapy or individual counselling to help them deal with the effects the gambling addiction has had on their family.

Sources of Support 

  • Gamber’s Anonymous  (GA)is a support group for those with a  gambling addiction. 
  • GA also holds meetings for family and friends of people with a gambling addiction called Gam-Anon
  • Problem Gambling Ireland provides support  to  people with a gambling addiction.

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