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Special to The Hesperian-Beacon—
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.