Youth farm stress

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June 19, 2019 - Author: , ,

Farmers can become stressed by a range of challenges – low commodity prices, debt, weather events, animal and crop issues, illness, injuries and other problems. This stress can carry over into farmers’ personal lives and families. As a result, youth may experience stress from their family’s farm conditions.

Warning signs of stress

Farm stress can affect youth emotionally, physically and socially. Signs of stress in youth in those categories follow:

Emotional:

  • Acting out (Physically or verbally, out of character)
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Lack of motivation
  • Anxiety

Physical:

  • Excessive tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Tension (Muscles in back or neck)
  • Excessive sickness and absenteeism
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Experimentation with use of drugs and alcohol

Social:

  • Change in normal routines, temperament and behavior
  • Change in friends who influence in negative ways
  • Loss of interest in extracurricular activities
  • Dropping out of social engagements
  • Isolation

Ways to help

Community resources:

If you notice the warning signs of stress in youth and have a trusting relationship, reach out to them or their parents to talk. In this conversation, you can identify the behaviors you noticed and provide the following resources and suggestions for assistance or treatment. 

  • Community mental health organizations
  • Private and or school counseling
  • Support groups
  • Positive youth development (4-H or mentoring programs)
  • Extracurricular activities (after-school programs or sports)
  • Spiritual practices or faith-based support

Ways adults can support youth in stressful circumstances:

Sometimes youth are hesitant to verbalize the need for assistance when dealing with the effects of farm stress. In that case, adults can step in as advocates. 

Adults can:

  • Create opportunities for conversation
  • Use open-ended questions
  • Listen without solving problems
  • Listen without judgement
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Encourage positive talk
  • Create space for "kids to be kids."
  • Provide healthy meals and snacks.

Stress reducers:

In addition, there are several things that youth and families experiencing farm stress can do at home together to reduce stressful feelings. These techniques are beneficial for all families and can increase their bond while reducing stress. 

  • Mindfulness and breathing techniques
  • Laughter and fun
  • Talking without electronics
  • Healthy eating
  • Exercise
  • Community service
  • Appropriate amounts of sleep
  • Caffeine avoidance
  • Positive talk
  • Family time and family activities
  • Community events such as fairs and festivals
  • Sports and outdoor activities including biking and hiking
  • Cooking together
  • Cultural arts and the theater

Ways youth can support parents in stressful circumstances:

Most youth are resilient. They may experience stressful feelings due to their family’s farm circumstances but are more likely than adults to regain normalcy fairly quickly with short-term support or treatment. If youth are well balanced and supported, then they may turn into a resource for their parents who are experiencing stress.

Youth can: 

  • Assist with chores
  • Help out with siblings
  • Become more self-sufficient regarding meals, homework and other areas
  • Remind parents to have fun
  • Organize clothes and lunches the night before for school or other events.
  • Be flexible.

Resources

Cooperative Extension Education Programs:

Look for additional learning opportunities and resources through your local Cooperative Extension Service. 

Recommended Resources:

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Tags: agriculture, managing farm stress, msu extension, resilient minds


Related Topic Areas

Agriculture, Food & Health, Managing Farm Stress


Authors

Kea Norrell-Aitch

Kea Norrell-Aitch
586-469-6264
knboyd@msu.edu

Janelle Stewart

Janelle Stewart
517-264-5300
stewa191@msu.edu

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