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You might think gambling isn’t a kid’s problem, but most children have gambled in some way by the age of 15. Gambling is illegal for young people but is becoming increasingly common. This is why it should become a normal conversation to have early, like talks of drinking, drugs and sex.

The problem

A 2020 NSW survey found that 30% of young people aged 12-17 gambled over the last year, and their introduction to gambling began at age 11 or 12. Despite its illegality, a 2018 report by Growing Up In Australia found that one in six adolescents aged 16-17 reported some form of gambling.

1 in six 16-17 year olds gambled in the past year
Source: Growing up in Australia 2018

There are several risks linked with excessive gambling. These include:

classroom statistics
Source: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation 2017

Types of gambling

Gambling may begin in childhood with games at home, buying lottery tickets or scratch cards, and in adolescence betting on races or sports. The use of video game gambling is increasing, with excessive video gaming recognised as a growing health concern.

With the options available in the online world, spending money on virtual goods is becoming more common. The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation found in 2017 that 34% of Australian young people made in-game purchases for online games.

Loot box features are becoming more common, where random rewards can be purchased with real money, a sort of lottery to increase playing incentives. Social casino games are often engaged with as an introduction to the world of gambling.  A 2016 study found that 54% of Facebook games had gambling content, and 22% alluded to slot machines, showing the need for education on the risks of gambling.

graph describing youth gambling activities
Source: Growing up in Australia 2018

Risk and protective factors

Children are more susceptible to gambling problems due to developmental and cognitive immaturities combined with peer pressure. Some common risk factors associated with higher likelihood of engaging in gambling include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Depression
  • Smoking
  • Drug use
  • Impulsivity
  • Violence
  • Temperaments
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Poor academic performance
  • Mental health disorders

A 2018 report by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation recognised protective factors that could limit a child’s exposure to gambling problems.  These include:

  • No substance abuse
  • Low impulsivity
  • High self-esteem
  • Low risk-taking
  • Future-oriented thinking
  • The ability to regulate emotions

credit card and laptop shopping

Preventing the problem before it begins

Gambling should be a topic of conversations when children are young enough to understand the implications of betting and using real money. It can become a problem early in adolescence, carrying into adulthood. There are recognised ways to prevent gambling becoming a problem which mostly involve open communication and limiting screen activity.

gambling problems beginning
Source: Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation 2017

Explain how gambling works

Children in primary school will generally be ready to learn about gambling. Talk to them about the likelihood of winning compared to other chances. The likelihood of winning the jackpot for Powerball is around 1 in 290 million. However, the chance of finding a four-leaf clover is 1 in every 10,000! They should know that gambling your own money is something to be taken seriously, but having fun is also okay. Encourage sharing your betting activities, so habits that can get out of control are not hidden.

Ensure your family attitudes and activities are a reflection of your stance

Your family’s attitude to gambling can influence your child. The less they are exposed, the less likely they could develop a problem. If you gamble regularly, your child might see this as normal behaviour and want to copy. Gambling language, such as ‘I bet you can’t shoot three baskets in a row, if you do we can go for ice-cream’ can be used to encourage children. There is a fine line between healthy gambling messages and unhealthy habits.

Set limits for screen use and online gambling

Allowing your children to play online video games with gambling content can lead to addictive habits and make them want to play until they keep winning. Do not connect your credit card to gambling-type games, and ensure your children know life is not always about winning. Supporting positive mental health by promoting non-digital interests is important.

young person with mobile phone

Look out for warning signs

If your child is struggling at school or with friends, they might be more susceptible to develop a gambling problem as an escape. Be on the lookout for these problems, such as focusing on sports odds rather than the sport itself, or changes in the amount of money your child has. Encourage more positive extracurricular activities than betting or gambling games. Ask them what games they play and remember to talk to them about how real-life betting works.

teenagers and adults gambling

Compulsive gambling is a recognised addiction that is treatable, but easier to prevent. It is becoming increasingly common in children and adolescents, so it is important to recognise gambling behaviours to prevent betting from becoming a bigger problem. If you know or suspect anyone to be struggling with gambling behaviours, seek help at Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858.

Sheleana Aiyana on Trauma, Abandonment Wounds and Conscious Relationships

Sheleana Aiyana, founder of Rising Woman, shares with Wellspring editor, Kate Durack, how she has learnt to develop conscious, healthy relationships despite early childhood trauma, abuse, addiction and abandonment wounds.

FIND SHELEANA HERE
Website:
https://risingwoman.com/author/sheleana-aiyana
YouTube: Rising Woman
Instagram: @sheleanaaiyana

To read Offspring’s article about Sheleana’s work, click here.

Elaine Benson of soberhood.com.au speaks out about her struggles with alcohol and wanting to be better for her sonSoberhood is a supportive judgement-free zone aimed at normalizing an alcohol free motherhood. Elaine is a single mother to a mad but beautiful three year old boy, a Cork native living in Sydney, Australia.

Former grey area drinker, I knew alcohol was crippling my life, but I didn’t realise just how much it was damaging my relationships and body until I felt forced to stop.

I had been drinking regularly from about the age of 16 and, my teens and 20’s were hedonistic, to say the least. It was accepted to drink till you blackout and somehow wake up in your bed the next morning not sure of how you got there.

I had some great experiences but mostly it was a blur of alcohol, drugs, anxiety, depression and self-sabotage.

It wasn’t until I was in my 30’s that I started to question my antics and see that for the most part, I was numbing the pain in my heart. Then when I became a mother and ‘mommy’s special medicine’ became the norm in the evening to ‘relax’, matters deteriorated quickly.

The drinking, coupled with the fact my son was not a fan of sleeping, sent me over the edge.

By the time he was two years old, I was desperately sad and feeling like life was a relentless struggle. My body was inflamed and in constant pain with endometriosis, which was intensified by the drinking.

The relationship with his Dad was in tatters. Like all my previous relationships, our connection was fuelled by alcohol and parties so when our son was born, the already tenuous foundation collapsed.

“I realised at that point that I wanted a better life for us.”

After a particularly heavy night on the booze at my work Christmas party in 2018, I didn’t get long to recover before we set off on a family Christmas holiday, 5 hours drive up the coast of Australia.

It was sweltering in the car, 40 degrees, Christmas traffic was in full swing, my partner and I were arguing and the air con was struggling.

The situation was already stressful and with the hangover from hell, my brain couldn’t cope and I had a panic attack.

My heart was breaking as my beautiful son watched me hyperventilating and crying uncontrollably. He was smiling at me but looking very confused. It must have been so unnerving for him to see his mother so scattered.

I realised at that point that I wanted a better life for us. I wanted him to feel safe and grounded with me. I begged the universe to take the dread away, and in return, I would never drink again.

In an effort to support myself, I listened to quit lit audiobooks repeatedly, I joined closed Facebook support groups, I listened to Tara Brachs life-changing podcast, I went to therapy, I journalled.

I tried to meditate daily, as well as practice mindfulness (which is basically being conscious and aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions so that you can be better at life!)

I am still on the road to shedding my old skin and discovering what it is to be present to the reality of life, but I have noticed a few shifts, here’s what I’ve found:

I notice stories that are coming up for me

Even as I write now, I can pay attention to my fearful ego saying ‘You’re alone, who are you to think you can do this….’ and on and on the fearful ego goes.

Stories regularly come up around alcohol too ‘I need a drink. It’s boring being sober’. I can notice these stories through awareness and respond by playing the scenario forward in my head. I’ll have one drink, which will turn to 5, I’ll wake up tomorrow and hate myself, I’ll have a hangover which will affect my mood for days, even weeks. I won’t have the energy or desire to play with my son. And I know then, it’s so not worth it.

I can separate from my self-limiting and destructive thoughts and ego

When I catch it in time, I can see the script that is running ‘you’re not good at stuff!’ and interrupt it with loving-kindness ‘you’re doing the best you can’

I procrastinate less

A handy by-product of less self-loathing. If I had written a list that Christmas 2018 of what I wanted to achieve in a year of sobriety, I would have been selling myself way short! Procrastination is fear in sheep’s clothing. I back myself more.

I allow myself to feel my feelings

I am more connected to what is going on in my body (through conscious awareness) so, when I feel the pull of anxiety, sadness, or a craving to drink, instead of swallowing it down and feeling it follow me around for days. I stop, sit, close my eyes, put my hand on my heart and inquire ‘what’s going on for you’ and answer with compassion ‘this is hard for you’ and let the tears (and snot) flow. I always feel better afterwards.

I know I don’t have to believe my thoughts

Understanding that thoughts and emotions are visitors helps let them come and go. I try to frame these thoughts as ‘Negative Protectors’. Our primitive ancestors owe their very existence to the ‘Be careful!’ thoughts, but these days the voices say things like ‘Have a drink, you don’t have to feel this’, when we all know it only delays and worsens the feeling.

Mindfulness practice helps you live with your thoughts without always reacting.

Today as I write this, I am in a much better place mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I attribute that to sobriety and mindfulness. I still struggle, as we all do, that is the human experience. But I have greater reserves to deal with the tough times and they don’t last nearly as long.

As one of my inspirations, Jill Stark puts it,

“Sometimes for the life we want, we have to sacrifice the short-term fix for the long-term rewards. We have to work out what we value the most and put that above the things that take us further away from everything we hold dear. It’s not always easy but jeez it’s worth it”

To learn more about Elaine’s struggle with alcohol and overcoming addiction for the sake of your family visit her website or contact her via email.

Website: soberhood.com.au
Email: elaine@soberhood.com.au

Dear Dr Benson,

Why do I crave chocolate?

Food cravings are thought to be due to external prompts and our emotional state, rather than actual hunger.

We tend to be bored, anxious, or depressed immediately before experiencing cravings, so one way of explaining cravings is self-medication for feeling miserable.

…One way of explaining cravings is self-medication for feeling miserable.

Chocolate does contain a variety of substances, many of which can have the effect of improving our mood.

Sugar and fat are obvious, both of which stimulate the hypothalamus, inducing pleasurable sensations by increasing levels of serotonin(a brain chemical that is also increased by the use of anti-depressant medications). 

High levels of the amino acid Tryptophanis also relevant, as it can be used by the brain to make serotonin

The chemical known as Theobromineis also known to have a mood-elevating effect (and can be quite toxic to dogs and cats, which is why pets should never be fed chocolate). 

Chocolate has also been shown to contain N-acylethanolamines which may result in heightened sensitivity and euphoria… possibly explaining chocolate’s aphrodisiac reputation!

Chocolate… may result in heightened sensitivity and euphoria… possibly explaining chocolate’s aphrodisiac reputation!

However it is also interesting to know that such chemicals are also contained in other less appealing foods such as broccoli.

So it may be the combination of chocolate’s sensory characteristics — sweetness, texture and aroma — that largely explain chocolate cravings…