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Have You Had “The Conversation” with your Children?

Good Touch/Bad Touch. Stranger/Danger. Drugs. Alcohol. Tobacco. Sex. All the “Big Talks” to have with your children. Just when you think you have made it through them all—what about talking with your children about gambling?

Children are likely to begin gambling at younger ages than most other risky behaviors and studies have consistently shown that youth have 4 – 6X higher rates of gambling problems than adults. However, gambling is often overlooked when it comes to having “The Talk.”

As with other risky behaviors, parents have critical impact on a child’s gambling. Parental modeling of and attitudes towards gambling are strongly related to how much a child or teen is likely to gamble.  Parents talking with their children about the risks and rewards of gambling increases their “protective factors” and decreases the likelihood of the child developing a gambling problem.

March presents many opportunities to begin the conversation about gambling with your children. Need some suggestions for your gambling talk?
Welcome to our “Three Important Messages”!

 1.) It’s O.K. to choose not to gamble.

With so many opportunities to gamble, particularly in March,—sports, cards, video games, dice, lottery tickets, just to name a few—it may seem like participating in gambling is inevitable, even expected. 

Ask your children/teens about whether there is a March Madness pool at their school?

Have a family discussion about March Madness and how the family can enjoy it whether you chose to gamble or not.  This is a great time to explain the odds and the risks involved with any gambling activity.

2.) It’s not O.K. to participate in illegal or underage gambling.

Become informed! You must be 18 to purchase lottery tickets and 21 to get into the casinos. What about the legalities of internet gambling, or those poker games and betting pools? Did you know that if an underage person is found gambling in a casino in Maryland that this is a civil offense that may result in fines, community service or mandated counseling for the underage person? For more information go to Mdproblemgambling.com

Let your children know that there can be consequences for underage gambling.

3.) If you choose to gamble, it’s important to know how to reduce the risk of developing gambling problems.

Gamble for fun, not to make money or make up for previous losses. Set limits on time, frequency and duration. Gamble in a social setting with others, not alone, and with money you can afford to loose. Do not gamble when under financial pressure and stress or coping with depression or anger. Do not gamble while using alcohol or other drugs or while recovering from mental health or substance use disorders. 

If you chose to bet on teams, how can you minimize the risk? Rather than an individual winning, put all the money back into a family entertainment fund.

Ask your children/teens if they have observed any of their friends getting overly excited, angry or stressed as a result of gambling. March madness may be a good time to watch for these behaviors at school. Talk about whether they or their friends have ever bet their lunches, possessions, or even doing someone else’s homework on anything. Most importantly listen to your children and create a safe and open environment to talk about the pros and cons of gambling.

Remember, gambling is not a risk-free activity, and how we talk to our children about their participation in gambling activities is just as important as all the other “talks”!!