It is hard to stand back
anonymous Asks ...
I think my 16 year old son might have a problem with gambling. He has been playing cards with some other students from his school for about a year now and I know they play for money. I have asked him to stop but he has not. Sometimes he seems to have a lot of cash around and sometimes I have noticed that things form his room suddenly disappear, like he needed to sell something to pay off his debts. He seems really stressed but he won’t talk to me about what’s going on and he does not admit to having a problem. My father was a bad gambler so I feel like I know the signs. My dad tried to kill himself once, so I also know how devastating this disease can be. My son is not listening to me. I would like to know what is the next step I should take?
Jill Edwards Says ...
I hear that you have tried to talk to him and he won’t talk to you, that he does not think he has a problem. I hear you have asked him to stop but he has not. I understand that you know about gambling because of the experience you have had with your father and I agree with you that your son appears to be at least over involved in gambling and it is affecting his income.
I understand that having experienced your father’s gambling you are naturally concerned about what is happening to your son, however it seems that your son is not prepared to listen to you now and you will not benefit the situation by continuing to chide him. I suggest that you do try to stand back and let him learn from his experiences. You should make sure that your possessions are safe and you do not support him with money when he is short. You can continue to be available for him when he is ready to discuss the issue, but you cannot impose your experience on your son.
I also suggest that you get some support for yourself. It is difficult to stand back and let him learn, but until he does, you will not have the basis for a conversation that is useful. You may like to approach Gambling Anonymous or a similar group and see if you can get into contact with family members groups that can support you in the tough job ahead. You could find out if other parents at the school are concerned about the gambling and see whether parents as a whole can take some action, but it is likely that if you stop this gambling practice he may just as easily get involved in other more dangerous ways of gambling.