Parents have the power

Dear Editor,

A recent national study estimates nearly 70 percent of Americans ages 14 to 19 gambled in the past year.

Adults and teens gamble to have fun and win money, but many people are not able to control their gambling. An estimated 2-7 percent of teen gamblers experience a gambling addiction as compared to 1 percent of adults.

Warning signs your young adult may have a gambling problem are a low mood or feelings of anxiety, stealing money and appearing preoccupied. These behaviors could indicate other difficulties such as alcohol and other drug use.

Research shows parents have the power to influence how their kids respond to risky activities.

Start early. Children often begin gambling in grade school. Parenting practices are most effective if started during the "tween" years, ages 9-13. If they don't hear the information from you first, they'll get it from someone or something else (friends, media, etc.). These sources may not be ones you want your child to believe or rely on for advice.

Families with specific, consistent and reasonable rules have fewer problems with risky behavior.

Know your children's whereabouts. Know their friends, but avoid making them feel controlled.

Make sure you listen so you learn what is going on in your child's life. Let them know they can come to you with anything.

The next time there is a mega-millions lottery winner discuss with your child the reality of that winning. Just remember discussion is a two-way street. Respect their opinions.

Parental involvement can include having friends to your home, encouraging teens to become involved in activities, attending their activities, reporting questionable activities to the proper authorities.

If you think your teen might have a problem, get an appointment with your school social worker, guidance counselor and/or MD. Your child should be assessed for a range of problems. Recovery from gambling addiction or dependence is possible.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem call the national problem gambling helpline at 1-800-5622-4700 or the HFM Prevention Council at 736-8188.

Yvonne Major for the

HFM Prevention Council