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Section 5
'He gambles away his allowance!' - Tools for 'Rescuing' the Child Gambler

Question 5 | Answer Booklet | Table of Contents

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In the last section, we discussed interventions.  This section covered goals of the intervention, rehearsals and contingency planning, and the effectiveness of intervention. 

In this section, we will discuss teen gambling.  We will discuss complications unique to teens, such as lack of responsibility.  We will also discuss denial and financial motivation.  Finally, we’ll examine prevention.  As you listen to this section, think of your teen gambling client.  How might your client’s parent benefit from hearing this section?

♦ #1  Complications Unique to Teens
Ethan, age 39, had a sixteen year old son, Tyler, who was gambling at school and at his friend’s house.  Tyler’s gambling problem was clear to Ethan.  Ethan stated to me, "Tyler skips out on sports and his responsibilities at home to gamble.  He’ll gamble away his allowance and his lunch money and then lie to me when he asks to borrow money, saying it’s for a school project or something.  Two months ago, he was caught stealing money from his brother to gamble.  What do I do?"

How might you have responded to Ethan?  I stated, "The answer to this question is complicated by Tyler’s lack of responsibility in the world.  You can prevent his gambling by removing his opportunities to wager as much as possible.  This would seem a worthwhile goal and in some cases it is.  But in the end it is merely a temporary solution, for the root cause of the gambling remains untreated, in remission as it were.  Tyler will have to get a handle on his gambling himself.  He needs to face the consequences of his gambling and come to the realization that gambling is destructive and he can’t engage in it." 

♦ #2  Denial
Ethan stated, "How do I get him to that point?"  I stated, "That’s the hard part. Denial tends to be much greater in young people because they likely feel very few consequences of their harmful actions. Most adults who run up credit card bills face immediate consequences. But teens living at home really don’t get the full impact because they don’t have that many responsibilities. Tyler doesn’t have to worry about losing a job or a family or his home." 

Also, would you agree that exacerbating this problem is a parent’s natural inclination to rescue a child?  If you are counseling a parent regarding teen gambling, would you recommend that parents bail their kids out just because they’re still kids?  I stated to Ethan, "The temptation to hold Tyler less responsible for his gambling is ill advised. The truth is that Tyler can overcome his gambling only by finding ways to control it."

♦ #3  Financial Motivation
As for financial debts, Tyler didn’t have a job and thus relied on Ethan to provide him with a weekly allowance.  Ethan agreed to simply cut Tyler off.  A teen gambler’s money supply is generally dependent on age and employment status.  With kids who are away at college, it becomes more problematic. 

Tom Coates of Consumer Credit of Des Moines has seen kids drop out of college because, as he states, "they rack up enough debt and can’t pay ongoing school bills the  family sent money for and they end up dropping out of college because of their indebtedness."  If parents are involved in tuition or in any way contributing financially, consequences can be allowed to fall where they may. 

At the very least, parents can install themselves as financial advisors to the child’s life, demanding periodic reviews and even tying continued financial support to the child’s willingness to cooperate."

♦ #4  Prevention
In the end, prevention is no doubt easier than dealing with the problem once it arises.  Prevention primarily entails education and can begin at any age.
--1. Opportunities for discussion abound, as gambling advertising is rather frequent throughout society.
--2. Secondly
, parents can teach children good judgment and self control, which I find to both be critical components of successfully avoiding gambling problems. 
--3. Third,
parents can channel children’s energies toward alternative activities with which to play out their need for stimulation and excitement, for discovering new things.

With teens like Tyler who have already fallen into a gambling problem, education may not be as productive.  I find that gathering evidence and confronting the teen with the intention of getting him or her to see the behavior as problematic is productive.  What might help your client’s teen overcome a gambling addiction?

In this section, we discussed teen gambling.  We discussed complications unique to teens, such as lack of responsibility.  We also discussed denial and financial motivation.  Finally, we examined prevention. 

In the next section, we will discuss breaking the addictive cycle.  As you know, the addictive cycle of gambling can be broken first by understanding the five stages of quitting.  Next we will discuss types and examples of techniques, and finally we will discuss how a therapist might choose a technique which best fits a client.

QUESTION 5
What is one complication unique to teens regarding gambling? To select and enter your answer go to Answer Booklet
.


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