How can I protect my children from gambling in the family?

27 Apr 2023

Are your children exposed to gambling through a parent, grandparent, or other family member? If so, they’re likely experiencing the negative consequences of gambling harm.

Research shows that on average, one person’s gambling has a ripple effect impacting around six people around them, from partners and children to friends and workmates.

Growing up around parents or family members who gamble or normalise gambling is one of the biggest factors that can lead to that child developing issues with gambling themselves.

It’s our responsibility as parents, carers, and the community to protect our young people and support healthy attitudes to gambling.

We offer advice to protect your children from gambling harm here.


Know the Effects of Gambling on Youth

Gambling harm can have serious negative impacts on a child.

A 2022 study found the most common effects of a parent’s gambling include:

  • Intergenerational transmission of problem gambling
  • Financial problems
  • Psychological/emotional problems
  • Relationship problems within the family
  • Family violence
  • Behavioural problems
  • Physical health problems.

This research showed adult children of parents who gambled regularly in their childhood were more likely to report current depression, anxiety, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) victimisation, and their own problem gambling, along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and poorer family functioning compared to adult children who weren’t exposed to gambling in their childhood.

It’s important to know the signs of gambling harm so you can keep an eye out for any behaviour that might indicate your children are struggling.

If you notice these signs in your children, seeking help sooner rather than later can help to minimise harm:

  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Tiredness and low energy levels
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Reduced interest in the activities and hobbies they used to enjoy
  • Increase in risk-taking activities such as drinking, drug use, sex, criminal activity.

These are just some of the potential signs that your children are experiencing gambling harm. These warning signs could indicate other issues for that child outside of gambling too.

Headspace has dedicated counsellors who can talk to your young person in a safe space and explore what’s going on for them.

Kids Helpline offers 24/7 support for children and young people on 1800 55 1800.


Talk to Your Kids About Gambling

Talking to your children about gambling isn’t always easy or comfortable, but it’s important for parents, carers, and the community to start the conversation so children feel safe raising the topic when they need to. We encourage you to:

Encourage open conversation

Encourage an open and respectful two-way conversation about gambling in a more informal way to avoid it feeling like a lecture. For example, if a gambling ad comes on TV while you’re watching a sport, or on a billboard on the drive to school, use that opportunity to ask them about their thoughts around gambling. This can open the floor for a more casual discussion.

Educate them about gambling

Explain how gambling works, including the low chance of winning. Being open and discussing the chances of winning will help young people understand that there are also risks involved when gambling, including a high chance of losing.

Discuss the risks and harms of gambling

Talk about the negative impacts and consequences gambling can have on individuals, their partners, their families, and their friends. Helping to explain the “why” of avoiding gambling harm will create a more open conversation rather than simply telling them not to do it.

Offer support

Ask them how they feel about the gambling in the family and encourage them to speak to you if it’s impacting them in a negative way.

Children impacted by gambling harm can access support via Gambling Help Queensland’s 24/7 gambling helpline or counselling, but they will require the support of a parent or guardian.

Call 1800 858 858 to learn more.


Model Healthy Attitudes Toward Gambling

Research shows the most influential exposure to gambling occurs when young people see family and friends doing it.

If a child grows up around parents or family members who gamble and accept gambling as a normal part of life, they’re more likely to adopt those same attitudes and behaviours.

You may be surprised at just how aware your children are of their parent and carers’ behaviours.

Even if your partner or someone else in the family is gambling, you can still be a good role model with your own attitudes around gambling.

Setting an example and reflecting on your own attitudes around gambling is a critical step to help them develop their own healthy attitudes.

We offer tips for safer gambling here.


Seek Extra Support                                                                                                     

If you need some extra support, our experienced counsellors can help you with your gambling, finances, and other general issues – whether you’re struggling with your mental health, drinking, or relationships.

You can call the 24/7 gambling helpline on 1800 858 858 to chat or make a face-to-face appointment.

You can learn more about our gambling support services here.

Headspace has dedicated counsellors who can talk to your young person in a safe space and explore what’s going on for them.

Kids Helpline offers 24/7 support for children and young people on 1800 55 1800.

We offer more advice for partners and family impacted by gambling in this blog post.

Contact us

If gambling has become a problem for you, or someone you care about, get some help. It’s free and confidential.

Call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Click for face-to-face counselling locations

Click for online counselling and real time chat