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Published on: 16 Nov 2016 by annarich
For the children, gambling is a constant, often invisible, presence in the family. Sometimes it brings a happy surprise and sometimes sadness or an angry outburst to the home. Inconsistencies and tensions impact on the lives of the children. Like other families that experience financial problems, there may be frequent moves. A move from a house, to a new neighbourhood and school, again, and again. Household items appear and disappear. However, unlike growing up in a neighbourhood where poverty is endemic, in the home of a problem gambler the child knows that (even though it remains unsaid) someone is to blame.
What secrets do the children learn to keep from neighbours, grandparents, their parents and each other?
“Don’t answer the phone. Don’t tell your grandparents…”
“Daddy was fired. What does embezzle mean?”
“Don’t tell your father about the scratch tickets. It’s our secret.”
“My dad says he wants to spend time with me when I visit him on the weekend. He just takes me to the mall so he can stand at the lottery kiosk and scratch his tickets.”
“Mommy will be home for supper…or before I go to bed…or soon…”
There have been highly publicized cases of child abandonment and neglect by parents who have left their children unsupervised in order to gamble. After decades of public education, substance abuse and recovery are generally understood and a family experiencing such troubles can usually find understanding and support. As problem gambling is a new phenomenon to many, it is rare for families of problem gamblers to find sympathy and consideration for their experience in their community.
A 15-year-old girl had worked hard to understand her father’s problem gambling. She and her siblings were receiving family counselling. Her father was attending Gamblers Anonymous (ga) and was soon to enter a treatment program. A project about addictions was assigned to the high school class. She planned her project on problem gambling.When she presented her outline to the class, the teacher curtly dismissed her topic with the comment that “gambling is not an addiction.”