EIN: 36-2605412

Teen Gambling Risks

A significant body of research shows that young brains are often the most impressionable and that presence of addictive substances can drastically alter and stunt normal brain tissue development. The influence of these substances can have both immediate social and behavioral consequences, as well as far reaching health impacts that can affect a person for decades to come. The risk of substance use for teens is well known, and talked about with parents, caregivers, and educators. So, why is it that gambling is often left out of this conversation?
It seems like more and more, tech companies and advertising firms want people on their phones as much as possible. While many adults feel they are “immune” to this kind of aggressive marketing technique, often the most vulnerable are kids and young adults.

Dr. Timothy Fong, co-director of University of California, Los Angeles’ Gambling Studies Program, said in 2022, “Young people are significantly at higher risk of developing gambling disorder than adults, in part because their brains are not fully developed. Their ability to evaluate risk, their ability to handle loss, isn’t as secure as an adult.” The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors reports approximately 4-6% of high schoolers have a serious gambling problem. An additional 10-14% are considered at risk for developing disordered gambling.

Gambling in high school, while illegal, can take form in any number of ways. Games of chance and poker, dice, gifted scratch-off and other lottery tickets, and even borrowing access to online gaming apps are all common ways for a young person to gamble. For many it is the simple thrill of small wins and does not escalate much beyond that point. However, sometimes early “big” wins can propel a person to invest more time and energy to continue chasing their next windfall. Some signs and symptoms of teens experiencing gambling harm are:

  • Lost and stolen money and objects of value
    •  Often teens do not fully grasp the impact of their gambling costs. They are not able to see the signs that they have or are about to lose money. Teens may become more tightlipped about their finances. They be unable to explain why they have accumulated both debt or large sums of cash. This can look like repetitively borrowing money without repayment, depleted bank accounts, and/or stealing money from friends and family. Teens may also begin to sell personal belongings so they can continue to gamble. In some cases, teens will “barter” objects of value to offset their debts with peers.
  •  Constantly playing games
    • Teens are impressionable and can often get hooked early on by video games quickly. This includes traditional gambling platforms like casino games, video poker, and lottery tickets, but also general video games and fantasy sports. You might notice a sudden, increased interest or obsession with sports scores and heightened reactions to gaming outcomes as signs of disordered gambling.
  • Behavioral changes
    • Behavioral changes can include changes in appetite, loss of interest in activities, poor performance in school and/or at work, new or worsening school troubles, friend group fallouts, and at times unexplained injuries or physical altercations with peers. Teens may also have unexplained absences from school.

Some ways you can help a teen in your life with understanding the risks of gambling are:

  • Have a conversation with them about gambling risks.
    • With the increase of accessibility to gambling products and services, it is important to educate yourself and your teens about safer ways to gamble and the risks. It is more impactful to be proactive in these conversations than reactive.
  • Monitor their gaming and browsing history.
    • Often teenage mobile and online games are linked back to their caregiver’s credit cards and banking accounts. Make sure to check your statements often for increased transactions to online games your teen is playing. Loot-crates and in-app purchases to advance in a game can become addictive to teens. If you find your teen is frequenting online betting sites, have a conversation with them about why they are using these sites, what they are getting out of it, and how these actions are impacting them financially. This may be a sign they need to quit gambling or look into additional resources for assistance.
  • Examine your own betting practices.
    • It is important to lead by example for teenagers. Often they may model behaviors they see at home. Apply your education about gambling risks, evaluate your own gambling behaviors, and set a positive example for your teen so they can set reasonable gambling limits as well.

There is never any shame in seeking help when you or your loved ones are experiencing harm from gambling. It is important to seek professional help for gambling as it can have life-long, serious consequences emotionally, physically, and financially. National Problem Gambling Screening Day is 3/12. A free resource that is used by professional counselors is available at the following link: https://e.helplineil.org/screener/. This screening tool is quick and easy to follow.

If you or a loved one wants to talk about the results of the screen, or are experiencing gambling difficulties, mental health challenges, and/or substance use concerns, please contact Nicasa Behavioral Health Services at 847-546-6450 or info@nicasa.org. Whether someone is just starting to gamble, is beginning to experience challenges, or has serious concerns about their gambling or the gambling of a loved one, access to help is available 24/7/365 – it is free and confidential. Illinois helpline staff can be reached 3 ways: phone: 1-800-GAMLBER; text: GAMB to 833234; chat: www.areyoureallywinning.com

Nicasa also offers trainings and classes on gambling. These workshops are available to all who serve Illinois residents of any age. Follow the link to learn more information and register: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc02SXbTlL7SMZIlhKobGuqHsucIlh1VlO5YjliVG5x_k-KPA/viewform

Creating a Parenting Plan

In a perfect world, marriages would never dissolve. But divorce is a reality and one that impacts everyone involved, including the children. To help children feel safe and secure during the weeks and months that follow a divorce, it is important that both parties work together to come up with a co-parenting plan.

Keeping Your Children’s Best Interests in Mind

Simply put, a co-parenting plan is a comprehensive document that outlines how parents will continue to raise their children after a separation or divorce. This document will lay out things like how much time children will spend with each parent, how decisions – both major and minor – will be made moving forward, how the information will be shared and exchanged, and more.

While there are no hard and fast rules as to how a co-parenting plan should be formatted or what information should be included, it is vitally important to approach the plan’s development with your children’s best interests in mind. To create a helpful document, all issues, emotions, and pettiness should be put aside, and the focus should remain on what is best for your children.

Things to be Included

It’s important to mention that co-parenting plans may differ from state to state. Having said that, most will include the following five clauses:

1. A Brief General Statement

The plan will typically open with a general statement that the parents will be sharing responsibilities of parenting the child or children. This includes shared decision-making and shared daily routines.

2. Outline Parental Responsibilities

In this section, parents agree to communicate on all important aspects of the children’s welfare. This can include making decisions regarding health, education, and religious upbringing.

3. Specifics

This section can cover how you will actually arrange to time-share. This includes routine time, activity time, overnight stays, etc.

4. Holidays

Outline how you and your ex will handle holidays and other special observances.

5. Time Period and Amendments

All co-parenting plans should mention the length of the agreement and that the plan will need to be re-examined and possibly adjusted from time to time moving forward.

Again, these are very general guidelines. Your plan can be more explicit and specific to your situation.

Getting Help with Your Co-Parenting Plan

To create the right plan for your family, it’s recommended that you get some guidance. While a lawyer can help you with specific legalities, a family counselor can help you with communication. After all, you will need to navigate your emotions and be able to hear and be heard for the best interests of your children. A therapist can facilitate healthy and clear communication.

If you’d like to work with a family counselor to create a co-parenting plan that will help you both raise happy and successful children, please reach out to me.


How Family Therapy Can Help During This Lingering Covid Crisis

It has been almost a year since the world changed with the Covid-19 virus. After months and months of being locked down, many families are experiencing burnout from being forced to be home together so much.

While the vaccines are being rolled out, we are still getting mixed reports and messages from the media as to when life might return to normal. Some schools have opened, but many have not, and parents are still scrambling to figure out how to make a living while homeschooling their children.

All of this has caused many families to feel fatigued and a real strain on their relationships.

Family Therapy: Ensuring Your Family’s Health

Over the past year, many families have taken necessary measures to ensure they remain physically healthy during this time. Making healthy meals (instead of ordering pizza 3 nights a week) and getting the family involved in regular exercise has been a big help. But how can parents ensure they and their children protect their mental health at this time?

Family therapy offers each member of your family a safe space to discuss any issues they may be having. A trained therapist can guide your family, helping all of you to understand and utilize the healthiest communication strategies. He or she can also help to validate your feelings and offer helpful stress management techniques.

And, for anyone concerned with the safety of visiting a therapist in person during this time, family therapy can be just as effective when received through telehealth, or online therapy.

If you and your family are struggling right now and would like to explore treatment options, please get in touch with me. I’d be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.