No. 1, don’t try to hide things from the children. Your body language is already telling them enough with regard to the financial difficulties you are experiencing. It’s OK to confide in them that the farm is experiencing tough economic times, according to Donna Andrusyk, family life field specialist at Iowa State University. 

It's better to be honest with kids, inform them and you may be surprised by their reaction and support.

 “Tell the kids what’s going on, but leave out the grim details if there are grim details,” says Andrusyk. For instance, it is OK to mention that pork production profits are down, and that the family doesn’t have the money to spend that it did a year or two ago. Depending on the age of the children, you might want to avoid mentioning that the farm is “x” dollars in debt or that there my be some liquidation of assets.

Informing your children about financial challenges can be a proactive strategy for the following reasons:

  • It may enlist the kids’ help in cutting back on certain expenses, such as back-to-school items. For instance, the child may agree to use the same backpack that he or she used last year rather than buying a new one.
  • It allows the parent to be a good role model when it comes to dealing with problems. It teaches children, through the parent’s example, that it's better to be honest and have a dialogue rather than bottling up emotions and perhaps acting them out in a negative, non-verbal way, such as slamming doors.    

This is an opportunity for you to role-model how you express your frustrations. Andrusyk offers some additional suggestions:

  • You have to take care of yourself and get your emotions in check before talking to the kids. you are no good to the children if you are not functioning well yourself. “In order to communicate well with kids, you have to get your own life, mind and body in order,” she notes.
  • Learn how you deal with stress. Everyone deals with stress differently. If it affects your stomach or you get chest pains when dealing with stress, recognize the symptoms and be proactive in dealing with it. For instance, take a couple of deep breaths to calm down and disassociate yourself from the stressful situation.
  • ·Reassure the child that everything will be all right. “Reassure them they are still going to be taken care of, no matter what,” Andrusyk adds. Some relevant phrases are: “we love you,” “we’re a family,” and “we will get through this, we just have to change a few things along with way.”  
  • Teenagers will talk to you, but often it’s on their terms. A teen might not be ready to talk after dinner, but might approach you later that night or the next day.   Try to be perceptive of the teen and when might be the best time for a conversation.
  • Provide simple, honest answers when the kids ask you a question. Again, they will see through you and know if you're not truthful, and then you'll lose their trust and raise their concerns.

These are stressful times, but they aren't the first, and won't be the last. Best to make to that opportunity to serve as yet another of life's teachable moments. It can bring you closer to your children and benefit you both in the long run.