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Families coping with drought

Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, Human Development Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Natural disasters bring stress, uncertainty and anxiety to people’s lives, especially for farm families. Even though drought does not have an immediate serious impact like that of a flood or tornado, it can be particularly tough for families to deal with. The damage and impact from prolonged drought can actually be worse and can add more stress and worries to farm families than other natural disasters.


Research found that drought may bring higher rates of anxiety and emotional distress and contributes to a variety of mental health effects such as hopelessness, more stress and grief. These issues may build over time, leading to psychological distress that not only affects mental and physical health, but impacts family relationships as well.


Here are some tips to cope with drought:


  • Take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Make sure you and your family members have a well-balanced diet, enough sleep and exercise. Practice stress reduction techniques such as yoga, tai chi, meditation or deep breathing.
  • Hold regular family meetings. Family meetings are an excellent way to have all family members involved to recognize accomplishments, discuss issues, solve problems and make decisions. The process builds family unity and promotes communication. For instance, family meetings can help develop an action plan for handling a drop in family income or coping with drought. When the family works together, everyone in the family feels a sense of ownership and that they are part of the solution.
  • Spend time with family and enjoy fun activities together. Having time together as a family not only helps build a stronger emotional bond between parents and children, but also better communication. In particular, during tough times, children may need extra attention and support from parents. Enjoy fun and laughter together frequently to help relieve tension. Maintain your family rituals to promote a sense of identity and a feeling of belonging.
  • Be patient with one another. Listen to everyone’s viewpoints and how they feel. Reassure your children and listen to their emotions and feelings. Don’t overlook your children’s feelings as you deal with tough times.
  • Be hopeful, optimistic and positive. Shift from worrying to problem solving. Focus on your family strengths and what was accomplished instead of failure. Have realistic goals and expectations. See the big picture and what really matters.
  • Nurture couple relationships. Couples must make time to be alone, be intimate and have fun with each other. Having a strong and satisfying relationship brings more happiness and strengths to share with children.
  • Reach out to seek the support you need. Supportive extended families, friends, neighbors, and church or spiritual activities can be good sources of assistance. A support network is very important. Talk with someone you respect and trust.


Tips for coping with drought-related stress. Missouri Department of Mental Health. (accessed on September 15, 2012)


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Last update: Monday, October 29, 2012