Farm Youth Stress and Challenges (dealing with stress on the family farm)

kid stressed out

Farm Youth have varying degrees of “mastery” to deal with the opportunities and stressors of life.  Learning opportunities abound on the farm, but growing up on a farm can also bring challenges. Challenges are normal and can be healthy as they can push youth to do things that promote healthy growth. It is in the process of dealing with and overcoming challenges that can help provide deeper meaning in life and can help youth develop a life skill of “Mastery” along the way.
Mastery is the ability to both conceptualize and actualize solving a problem, create a project, communicate an idea, achieve a life skill, or using a skill to deal with or better manage a situation or opportunity. The aim here is to better develop Mastery over life’s more “down” times. 

The Power of Positive Reality is a mindset to help youth use the Power of Positive Focus that hopefully leads to the Power of Positive Definition of who they are that then leads to the Power of Positive Reality in their lives.  Relating the Power of Positive Reality to Farm Child Psychology is depicted in the table below.  The goal of Reality is to foster youth to positive Actions, Behaviors, Habits, Performance, Decisions and thus Positive Reality on the right. But, in order to get youth there, we need to step back and help youth create or envision positive Thoughts, Images, Ideas, Perceptions, Mission to help youth create a positive FOCUS—a mindset to overcome negative stimuli.
Positive Thoughts are a precursor to positive Feelings and thus, positive Actions. A common parenting skill is to threaten youth to quit this action, behavior or habit or to perform a certain way or make this decision, maybe even harping on this daily to get this endresult or action.  As children grow, they tend to acquire many deep-rooted pictures or images, ideas, perceptions from parents and peers, teachers and television, siblings and society that may or may not be healthy. 
Trying to sway youth towards a healthy action that conflicts with their perception or the picture of what is the norm may mean a parent needs to go back and adjust the camera or brain lens to help youth understand why their image might need to be changed first for healthier decision making. But, the reality of getting from picture to good decision has another step. Attached to the thoughts, pictures and perceptions are often feelings, attitudes, values and principles that often need changing to get at the desired action, behavior or habit.  Bottom line is that positive thoughts or images are precursors to positive feelings or attitudes which are precursors to positive actions, habits or behaviors— Thus, the power of positive reality in youth development takes a multi-step approach.
Well-Adjusted Youth tend to come from well-adjusted parents.  Modeling healthy behavior is key.  Witnessing unhealthy conflict due to farm or family can be harmful, a source of unhealthy pictures or perceptions that may get rooted in a child’s mind forever. Farm and family stress may cause youth to be anxious, scared or sleepless and may respond by acting out or turning inward, and having trouble interacting, concentrating and performing in school or elsewhere (NERMEN).  All families have some conflict and challenges or they are not normal.  
It is more important to deal with a youth’s thoughts more than feelings (Rosemond) as often parents give overt attention to a child’s feelings at the expense of well- adjusted thought processes to help them better deal with their feelings.  It is more important to empathize with youth than to sympathize with them.  The former tends to help with understanding their situation. The latter tends to help them feel sorry for themselves.  But, in times of great grief, sympathy may be the needed form of compassion.
So, What Do You Tell the Kids? Farm youth, when times are tough, can often rise to the occasion, and even help deal with the fire or problem, if supported with clear and caring communication.  Protecting loved ones from bad news is not always best, as often, kids may be aware of something, feeling emotional charges. Mistrust can develop if not being told the truth.  If age appropriate, give youth the opportunity to appreciate the real concerns of the family—it can teach youth to deal with difficulty—and can help build resiliency in your children. 
Bring youth along in the discussions rather than just announce the bottom line plan. Let them know they are loved and did not cause this as they often blame themselves.  Listen to them without criticizing their worries. Check their level of understanding and know a one minute chat, a gentle hug or a reassuring word may be the best way to communicate with youth under stress.

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