Raising Kids Who Don't Gamble

Kids have different brains than grown-ups. These differences make kids prone to lifelong trouble if they start engaging in risky behavior while their brains are still developing. What’s clear from research, is that gambling is a risky behavior for kids.Search Institute researchers categorize gambling as a high-risk behavior in the same list as kids having sexual intercourse, using drugs, and getting into trouble with the police. It can be a challenge to talk to kids about gambling, especially since “gaming” has become such a seemingly mainstream activity in our society from football pools to online poker, be aware of all the possible gambling pitfalls.Consider these tips as to help you prepare your child to face difficult situations where he or she might encounter pressure to partake in gambling.

Tips for . . .

• Talk to your kids about why you want them not to gamble. Gambling is a risky behavior, just like underage alcohol use. Learn more about how to do that, here.

• Watch for warning signs that your child may be gambling often. Is your child flaunting large amounts of money? Does he or she leave used lottery tickets around? These could be signs of a problem. Learn more about gambling warning signs >

• Be aware of your gambling habits and of the habits of adults around you. If your child has an aunt or uncle who loves to gamble (and loves to talk about it), your child might be more open to trying it.

• Have predictable, calm routines for your young child. Typically, problem gamblers are used to highs and lows and often gamble instead of taking care of themselves. Your child will find it easier to adjust to unpredictable situations later in life when he knows what to expect at home.

• All young children are impulsive. Teach them how to wait and not to act impulsively all the time. Problem gamblers have trouble controlling their impulses.

• Have fun with your young children in ways that are healthy. Go to the playground together, do art projects, put together Legos.

• Begin talking about the dangers of gambling with your child. The earlier and more frequently your child hears consistent messages from you about not gambling, the more likely your child will heed your advice as he or she grows up.

• Ask your child what he or she thinks of the lottery. (Even if you’re not talking about it, your child may be learning about it from other places.) Be clear that you think that only adults should play the lottery. If you don’t think anyone should play the lottery, say so.

• Your child is always watching you. What is your child learning about gambling from you? Do you often joke about making bets and winning big? Strive to be a good role model for your child.

• Be on the lookout for signs that your child may be gambling. Kids at this age can play card and dice games for money. They may get lottery scratch-off tickets from other people. Be clear about what is acceptable—and not acceptable.

• If you discover your child experimenting with gambling, be careful not to overreact. Talk about why it’s important for your child not to gamble. Find out what your child did and why. Then address those issues.

• As kids get older, they can begin to know people who gamble. Talk about peer pressure and how not to be influenced by people making poor choices.

• Continue to articulate your views, rules, and values about gambling. Be clear that you expect your teen to not gamble. Learn more about football pools and other forms of teen gambling here.

• Create consequences for gambling—before anything happens. For example, what is the consequence if you your underage teenager bought lottery tickets? Make consistent rules and consequences and then stick with them.

• Ask your teenager what he or she thinks about gambling. Get specific. It’s too easy for teens to say that gambling is bad but then think that some types of gambling are worse than others. Ask about penny poker, the lottery, and sports pools and how often your teenager thinks these activities are okay to do. Betting $5 on the NCAA basketball tournament once a year is different from sneaking into a casino to play blackjack—or buying lottery tickets every week illegally. Be clear and specific about what’s acceptable behavior and what’s not .

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