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Mutual enjoyment and closeness are among the benefits when parents, grown children
and grandchildren farm or ranch side by side.
When two and three generations work closely on a farm or ranch, tensions over
a person’s need for privacy may result. Allowing grown children space to learn to
function as independent adults is imperative. The importance of defining individual
boundaries, traditions, activities and priorities, must be maintained.
Researchers have found that farm/ranch families with open communication, shared
decision making and long-range planning for normal family changes handle stress
better than those with closed communication, authoritarian decision-making and
day-to-day planning. Family members may need to improve their skills in reaching a
consensus. There are some time-tested methods of handling problems that may arise.
Begin problem solving by gathering the family and establishing a positive atmosphere,
free from interruptions. Help family members identify the specific problem at
hand and determine who can or should help in resolving it. For example, one person’s
behavior may be a problem to someone else because it is interfering in some tangible
way with another person completing a task.
Next, identify what each person involved in the problem really wants. As a group,
brainstorm all possible solutions. Decide who will do what, when and how. Make sure
each person is clear about his or her part of the agreement.
Then, put your plan into action on a trial basis, say for a month. Finally, meet again
after a month to figure out what worked and what did not. It may be necessary to try
another solution or adjust your current efforts.
Of course, minimizing problems is best. But achieving such harmony will take some
effort. Your family may find success by following these guidelines.
• Avoid “What if . . .” fantasies and “if it wasn’t for . . .” regrets. Think about what’s
happening now and focus on solutions.
• Ask for what you want directly: “What I’d like from you is . . .” Remember, the
other person is free to say yes or no. Foster respect and consideration for each other.
• Recognize and appreciate individuals for their contributions. If you feel you are
not getting enough attention or support, ask for it and explain what you need.
• Check what another person really wants from you. This is a good way to get expectations
out in the open.
• Check whether the other person heard you accurately. “Would you please tell me
what you heard me say?”
• Make your own traditions. Schedule an annual family get-together at a nearby lake
or go camping together. Get everyone involved. Organize an activity that all can enjoy
so that in the end, everybody feels good.
The togetherness of a multiple generation farm/ranch operation can be a source of
stress as well as satisfaction. By allowing people time and space to be themselves and
to do some things their way, each generation can establish its own independence while
maintaining close family ties.
This article was adapted from Colorado State University Extension by Nancy McDonald, Extension Project Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.