17 February 2020
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Protecting the Loved Ones of an Excessive Gambler

Are you affected by the gambling addiction of a loved one who could be your partner or even your teenager?  Are you in psychological distress? Are you living with financial insecurity? Are you worried for other members of your family, especially the children? Have you tried to express your feelings to this person? No matter what stage you find yourself in, rest assured that there is help not only for the gambler, but for you as well. The first step is to recognize that the situation is affecting you. The second step is to take the means to protect yourself from the negative impacts of the gambler’s behaviours.

Finding moral support

If you are feeling overwhelmed, we strongly suggest that you talk to someone trustworthy. For example, you can talk over your concerns with a family member, a close friend or your family doctor. The important thing is to break the wall of silence. Are you so ashamed that your partner is an excessive gambler that you try to hide the problem from your friends and family? This is normal and very common among partners of a gambler. Whether it is someone close to you or a specialized professional in excessive gambling, it is

Making safety a priority

If there is a risk of violent or abusive behaviours, the safety and well-being of everyone concerned must de ensured. What can you do?

  • Asses the situation so you can know whom to call for help.
  • Put a support network in place. For example, call upon a family member, a close friend or an organization that can help.

Protecting personal finances

Excessive gambling can often cause substantial debt that can lead to bankruptcy. There could be negative effects on the gambler’s finances, as well as, the whole family’s finances.

Here are a few suggestions in order for you to protect your personal finances:

  • Follow up on all expenses and debts incurred.
  • Protect your assets. To do so, it is possible to open new bank accounts, modify your mortgage and make changes to your other assets to which the gambler will not have access. A financial advisor can offer solutions so that you are able to do this.
  • Manage the finances. For example, remove the gambler’s credit cards and/or give him/her a daily allowance until the situation changes.
  • Do not try to « rescue » the gambler by offering to pay off his/her debts. Doing so is a sure-fire way of prolonging the problem. In fact, giving him/her the money to clear a debt enables him/her to continue gambling for as long as your loved one does not take control of his/her gambling.

Protecting the children from the impacts of a gambling addiction

A parent that gambles may be unable to give his/her children the attention and care they need and deserve. The situation is obviously extremely hard for the children who can feel either physically or emotionally abandoned by their parent. Just like adults, children can feel angry, depressed and guilt for the problems at home. They can also begin to develop behavioural problems and act out. In fact, because of this stressful situation, children can also isolate themselves or inappropriately express their feelings. The children should be made aware of what the problem is using terminology adapted to their age.

How to act with an excessive gambler’s children

Children might be confused about their feelings towards the parent who gambles. Here are a few suggestions to help them during this difficult time:

  • If your children feel like there is problem, tell them they can talk to you or another significant adult about it.
  • Know that children feel better if they express their feelings using I-Statements (« I am sad », « I think mommy or daddy has a problem… »).
  • Help them understand that gambling is only one aspect of the parent and that his/her love for them is still there. Show them that it is possible to love the person without necessarily loving their upsetting behaviour.
  • Clearly tell them that it is not their fault nor is it their responsibility to take care of the problem.
  • Tell them that their parent has access to help which is effective and has helped other adults with a gambling problem.

It is also important to know that children who grow up in a household with gamblers, are themselves at risk of developing the same problem. However, knowing that they can count on the love and support of caring and significant adults, improves their chances of growing up healthy and without such problems.

Resources that can meet the needs of an excessive gambler’s loved ones

LigneParents
(Parents Helpline)

1-800-361-5085 24 h / 7 days
For the parent of a child whose other parent has a gambling problem

Tel-Jeunes
(Youth Helpline)

1-800-263-2266 24 h / 7 days
For youth whose parent(s) has/have a gambling problem

GAM-ANON

Visit their website
For the loved ones of someone who has an excessive gambling problem

Maison
Jean Lapointe

Help for families : 514-288-2611

Centres de Réadaptation
en Dépendance (CRD)

Programme for loved ones– the CRD’s provide free, therapeutic, professional services, specifically for the loved ones of an excessive gambler, whether or not he/she is in treatment

Association Coopérative
d’Économie Familiale (ACEF)

For anyone who needs help making a budget

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