When parents who gamble are unable to give their children the attention and care they need, the children can feel abandoned, both physically and emotionally.
Like adults, children can feel angry or depressed and blame themselves for problems at home. They can also start to show behavioural problems. The stress of the situation can also lead them to shut others out or express their confusion in inappropriate ways. It is important that you explain the problem to them in age-appropriate terms.
Helping them understand
Children can feel confused about their feelings toward a parent who has a gambling problem. It is important to do the following:
Help them understand that gambling is only a behaviour
Show them that they can love the person without loving the problem behaviour
It is also important to remember that children from families with gambling problems are more at risk of becoming problem gamblers themselves. However, having the love and support of sympathetic significant adults increases their chances of growing up healthy and problem-free.
What to tell them
Here is how to help the kids get through the ordeal:
If the kids notice a problem, tell them they can talk about it to you or another significant adult in their lives
Clearly tell them that it is not their fault and it is not their job to fix the problem
Remember that they will feel better if they talk about their feelings in “I” terms (“I’m sad,” “I think Mom or Dad has a problem”)
Tell them that their parent has access to treatment that can solve the problem