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Keeping kids safe on the farm during COVID-19

  • 2.5 min read

The closure of schools and daycares to curb the spread of COVID-19 means there are thousands of children home across the country, including those on farms.

Although working with children around isn’t new for most agricultural operations, spring – a busy time of year for farms – is just around the corner. Heightened safety measures might be needed to protect the young ones nearby.  

Self-isolating farm families may want to consider seeking out a healthy relative to live with the family and assist with childcare.

Robin Anderson, the communications co-ordinator with the Canadian Agricultural Safety Association, says self-isolating farm families could consider having a healthy relative come live with the family to assist with childcare. Or share chores with neighbours, so one parent is available for childcare. 

“Every farm has unique childcare needs and hazards,” Anderson says.

Preventing injuries

Safe play areas and supervision are essential to preventing child farm-related injuries, Anderson says. If you plan to have school-age children help at the farm, but are uncertain if a job is age-appropriate, CASA provides a decision-making framework for 10 of the tasks most frequently associated with injuries to children. 

For children old enough to help, CASA urges families to follow its Ag Youth Work Guidelines.

COVID-19’s anticipated stress on healthcare may limit usually available medical resources. CASA recommends making a concerted safety effort on the farm. 

“Preventing injuries and staying healthy and safe is something that we can do not just for ourselves, but for our families, our farms and our communities,” Anderson says.

Talk it out

Helping children and youth manage their mental health during this time of high uncertainty is also important. 

Anderson encourages that parents talk to their kids about COVID-19 and refers them to the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s “for parents” section. The CDC points out that while everyone is different, reactions such as reverting to younger behaviours, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits and avoiding previously enjoyed activities can be signs of stress.

The CDC also recommends that talking with kids and sharing facts from reliable sources like Health Canada, may help them deal with worries. 

Farm family transition coach and farmer, Elaine Froese, says the COVID-19 pandemic creates the need for a sense of hope and community among farm families and Canadians. She recommends staying connected through phone calls or video calls. 

“Plant seeds of hope and listen to the concerns of others,” Froese says.

Bottom line

Children are unexpectedly back on the farm as schools and daycares across the country close to keep the COVID-19 virus from spreading. The influx means heightened safety measures as spring yard work gears up, or looking for alternative childcare options, such as chore-sharing with neighbours and taking turns watching the kids. Experts say it’s important to be mindful of children’s mental health as well, speaking to them about the pandemic to ease distress. 

Article by: Richard Kamchen