Paris dans mon cœur

How do adults address this weekend’s carnage in Paris? (Do we?) How much information have our youngest ones already heard, and how much of it do they actually understand? Forbes magazine, France 24, and plenty of other outlets are devoting columns to the topic, where the general consensus among psychologists is not to discuss it (or any other such atrocities) with children under age six. Children attending elementary school will likely hear rumors on the playground or teachers discussing it in class, and parents should prepare for a conversation. In light of media over-saturation, parents will find themselves decoding and filtering information, and should avoid projecting their own anxieties and fears. Easier said than done, but providing reassurance is crucial. It is so easy for a child to see traumatizing images without context, and the images coming out of Paris are frightening–places children visit, like soccer stadiums and restaurants, have been turned into scenes of devastation and death. Parents and educators must be willing to “prendre la relève” or take up the burden, of providing strength and love in such uncertain times.

But for the littlest ones, why not spark a lifelong love for this beautiful city and its people by offering them The Story of Diva and Flea, by power-duo Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi (Hyperion Press; $14.99, October 2015). It’s a story about an unexpected friendship, but at it’s core, this is a love song to Paris. Willems realized a lifelong dream of living in the city while writing the book, and DiTerlizzi’s illustrations remind us that the people, places, and creatures of Paris are beautiful, strong, and resilient. Vive Paris. 

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