GOULD: Kids Dealing with Trauma in the Heartland

As a young kid, I remember watching my grandmother delicately whisk her finger around the inside shell of an egg to ensure every speck made it into the bowl. I was fascinated. I had never seen anyone do that before. She told me about her experiences growing up after the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. She explained that wasting any morsel of food and nourishment was just not done. She carries that ingrained process with her to this day.

My dad talks about being an 8th grader at Holy Family Catholic School in Grand Forks during the Cuban missile crisis and what it was like to have the Grand Forks Air Force Base on high alert with planes flying above the city constantly all day and night.

For me, the space shuttle Challenger explosion will always be etched in my memory. We eagerly watched NASA’s “teacher-in-space” Christa McAuliffe walk to the shuttle, wave at us, and launch into space from our 6th grade classroom television at St. John’s Academy in Jamestown. We all knew something terrible happened when Sister Louise abruptly turned off the television.

Recently I spent some time with my nephews, and I was very aware of their interest in the news, the conversations of the adults, and the press conferences from President Trump and Governor Burgum occurring every day that they certainly tuned into. They asked good questions. They were worried about their friends at school. They were worried about their bus driver having something to do. They were worried about many of the same things the adults were worried about. And then it dawned on me: this is their moment of national tragedy, like each generation before them has experienced and will always remember.

In North Dakota, there are over 183,000 children spread across the state – living in cities and on farms and ranches. Chances are many of them are experiencing anxiety about what is happening around the coronavirus outbreak and what they hear in their homes, on the news, and on social media.

So what can we do to help our kids? It’s an important question. Here are some ideas:

North Dakotans should talk to the kids in their lives about the coronavirus and answer their questions. Children hear bits and pieces of news, and partial information can at times be more damaging than the full picture. To soothe their worries, we have to be a reliable source of information on the virus and all of the changes they are experiencing in their daily lives. Explain social distancing and its importance for keeping them, their family, and their community healthy. Keep a routine that helps make your time spent at home feel normal and productive – complete schoolwork, find engaging virtual entertainment, and make sure to get fresh air and have some fun. Here are some sources that we have been sharing in our own office and friend groups:

Khan Academy: Need to brush up on some algebra before helping your kids with their school work? Khan Academy has been helping millions of American children and their parents learn new educational topics for years and has become a trusted resource for school districts and teachers alike.

Google Arts and Culture: Family trips may be on pause right now but you can still virtually explore world-class museums like the National Gallery of Art and the Museé d’Orsay with the help of Google Arts and Culture.

TED Talks: Want to learn about ideas worth spreading? How about learning why pasta comes in all shapes and sizes? TED Talks can teach you and your children something new that you never even knew existed.

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems: Get some creative time in by tuning into the Kennedy Center Education’s Artist-in-Residence Mo Willems lunchtime doodle session. New episodes are live each weekday at 12:00 p.m. CT and can be streamed online afterwards.

North Dakota Studies: North Dakota Studies provides teaching and learning materials about the geography, history, government, current issues, and citizenship of North Dakota. This web site provides resources for students, teachers, and the public. It’s a great source for all things NoDak!

Explore the World: From kitten rescues to aquariums across the world, watching live webcams can help take your mind off the events going on at home. You can even watch a variety of animals at a watering hole in Laikipia County, Kenya.

Of course, it’s important to monitor your kids’ social media use as always, while also balancing keeping them connected to their friends and support networks.

During this time, let’s make sure our youngest North Dakotans have the information and tools they need to feel safe and empowered during this crisis. And don’t forget to take care of yourself. These are uncertain times, but North Dakota families will get each other through this.

Tessa Gould