Don’t Tell Your Mother

By Patrick M. Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

My college aged granddaughter and her friends love horror/thriller movies. The scarier the better, she tells me. These films, according to psychologists, can provide catharsis of suppressed aggression, an adrenalin rush, pure excitement, curiosity, intense emotions, and dispositional alignment, a concept in which the viewer enjoys the violence visited on those the viewer feel deserve it. Wow! As a teenager I loved the old school Universal Studios monsters: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man. I am not a big fan of the genre, but will sit through one, waiting to be scared, then being surprised when I am startled. As I have aged, the appeal of horror films has greatly diminished.

Do you like scary movies? Recognize the quote? Horror film buffs will remember it as the opening of the movie, Scream. The phone rings and Drew Barrymore picks it up and hears that line. In another thriller, When a Stranger Calls, a young woman answers the phone and hears, Have you checked the children?

When I started writing this blog, those two lines of dialogue immediately came to my mind. Phone calls in both films introduce the dread that is about to impose itself upon the actors who answered. Reread those lines of dialogue, so effectively spooky, so ominous! In the former instance, a stranger implies you are about to participate in your own existential nightmare; in the latter, a nightmare beyond belief has already unfolded.

The first principle of stranger safety awareness that Matt and I present to school assemblies is the concept of personal space. We ask student volunteers to demonstrate wordlessly what this idea means to them. We attempt for a child to be able to easily describe the space around them using extended arms to make visible to all the sacred area that no one may enter without the child’s permission. We ask the children to name people they would allow into their personal space. We believe it is an effective teaching method. Any story, any fairy tale that uses a ruse by a stranger to get near a child is exploited by us.

Read the newspapers and you will understand why I get apprehensive that times have changed so quickly that we have to up our game. The instant communication of today amazes and dismays me. Letter writing seems so quaint and archaic. Texts with emojis and phonetic abbreviations glut messages from those younger than I. Voicemail, mostly unwanted and unsolicited, fills answering machines no matter that your number is on a state no call list!

Here’s a sample of what I mean. This headline appeared in Newsday, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. The article below the banner filled half a page.

Voicemail left for girl helps nab sex predator

 Astute mom, LI police lead to capture in Calif.

How’s that for sending a shiver down your spine? The registered sex offender who has done this phone tag before had made a call that was answered by an 11 year-old girl. Think of the odds of dialing THAT number! The apprehended predator said he was calling random numbers and the girl’s voice sounded young. He had warned the 11 year-old not to tell her parents. The mother luckily overheard part of the voicemail and took the phone away from her daughter. She then purchased a phone app she used to unblock the predator’s phone numbers.

The concept of personal space must be updated. How much more personal is the space when a complete stranger can be invited into it with a simple hello? The whispered message of a predator does not easily recede from the mind. The sex offender was arrested through the teamwork of Long Island’s Garden City Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department on felony charges of making criminal threats, attempted child molestation and annoying or molesting a minor.

Many years ago a fellow teacher told me he was giving up all his coaching duties. Why, I asked. When the kids were younger, he said, I could actually believe that I didn’t need to be there 24/7. Trust me, he added, as the kids age you have got to be there more than ever.

Parent involvement matters. Who knows what message might hook your child when a strange message is heard. I think the following partial list of expressions that might be heard forms the basis for a good conversation with your children concerning messages from unknown sources. You can call them warning sounds, bells, or whistles. Tell your children that should they hear any of these statements in a message, they must immediately tell you. You must tell the police. Use any, some, all of these statements or one you believe focuses your child’s mind on the danger lurking on unsolicited calls.

  • I’m here for you.
  • You’re so funny.
  • You have great ideas.
  • I would love to spend time with you.
  • You seem very smart for someone your age.
  • You are so impressive. Will you show me how you did that?
  • If I hurt your feelings, will you forgive me?
  • We have a lot in common.
  • I really think we should meet.
  • You’re really cute. How about sending me your picture?
  • I believe in you.
  • I’m proud of you.
  • Go for it! Don’t let anybody hold you back!
  • I really, really like you.
  • Are your parents as clueless as mine were?
  • What we have may be special. How about we keep it just between you and me?
  • I love you.

 

Do you like scary movies? Have you checked the children? These classic movie lines thrill and chill, for sure. Now, if we add a real life predator’s plea, Don’t tell your mother, how much fear does that instill?

Stephen King had one of his characters realize Grownups are the real monsters!

Being safe takes time, effort, patience and vigilance. You’ve got to be there more than ever. What a world!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Pokémon NO!

By Matthew J. Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

It seems that Pokémon Go is sweeping the nation. It’s a very entertaining, enthralling game that really brings the world of video games to life. It’s all over the news how this game is causing accidents because the players are losing focus on reality. Let’s take a moment to discuss how this app can become extremely dangerous to our children.

The Rose Brucia Stranger Safety Awareness Program has a goal to increase children’s awareness to their surroundings. It seems that melding reality and gaming is now another blockade to keeping our children alert.

Some tips to share with parents & children:

  1. Agree on the proper times and places that such a game may be played safely.
  2. Discuss the possibility of allowing the game to be played with adult supervision.
  3. Have a meaningful discussion of the consequences of not paying attention to their surroundings, ie. walking out into the street, falling over a curb, tripping into another person, and of course, walking right into the hands of a predator.
  4. Remind children to walk with their heads up and eyes looking all around.
  5. Remember to keep a safe distance from all strangers. Not all strangers are bad, but the ones who want to hurt your children will be looking for an opportunity when they can strike. It only takes an instant to destroy what a lifetime of love has created.

Pokémon Go can be a lot of fun, just remind your children that all fun activities have a time and a place.

Be safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Personal Space is very PERSONAL

By Matthew Barbis, Founder & Chairman

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

As part of the Stranger Safety Awareness Program at The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation, we pay special attention to defining the concept of personal space. In an effort to properly illustrate the concept, we ask three students from the audience to join us at the front of the room. Once the students are in front of the audience, we then coach them to show the audience, without words, the meaning of the two words: “personal space”.

It is a lot of fun to watch the students ponder the meaning and slowly start to act out their demonstration. Some students point to their feet, others start to flap their arms, while still others start to spin in a circle. Once they have arrived at their wordless definition, we, the instructors, then respectfully invade their personal space in order to drive the point home.

Personal space is defined as the “bubble” around you, fingertip to fingertip as you extend your arms, all the way over your head, behind you and in front of you. It becomes important to list who may be invited into your personal space. Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, brother, sister, best friend, family pet, school nurse, teacher are a few top choices. This opens the opportunity for the further discussion that strangers must NEVER be permitted to enter this space. Additionally, if a stranger starts to move into that space, your child should be instructed to run, not walk, but run away to create as much distance as possible from that stranger. For these purposes, a stranger is anyone who you or your child have not been formally introduced and anyone that you do not know.

You may use this opportunity to discuss other topics such as good touch and bad touch (a very hot topic that is best introduced by a parent due to its intense personal nature) and physical bullying. As always, these lessons are meant to be thought-provoking and stimulate open communication.

Be safe!

 

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

“There’s nothin’ can harm you…”

By Patrick Chierichella, Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Haunting, hypnotic, evocative the seminal aria, Summertime, composed by George Gershwin in 1935 for Porgy and Bess, stays wondrously intoxicating today as we look forward with anticipation to the languorous warmth of summer 2014.

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing

Then you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky.

Until that morning, there’s nothin’ can harm you

With your daddy and mammy standing by.

Sweet, poignant, tinged with an undercurrent of melancholy these lyrics evoke for parents and guardians the natural yet wistful passage of a child into self-reliant adult.

Wait a second there, my friends! Snap out of your reverie! Here come the daunting tasks that are today’s requirements for any child’s chance at educational and vocational success.

State tests, finals, placements discussions, Committee on Special Education hearings, teacher evaluations are just a few of the stressors that parents, children and educators annually face, leaving all but the hardiest drained and looking forward to those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.”

Jeff Smink, VP for policy of the National Summer Learning Association, published the article, This is Your Brain on Summer Break on July 27, 2011. He noted a summer off is one of the important causes of underachievement. A RAND Corporation report from June 2011 posited each student sustaining an average mathematics and reading loss of one month per year. Moreover, the loss is cumulative! According to the website, Think/Stretch, students lose 2 to 3 months of knowledge every summer! Within such articles you will also find proposals for at least SIX additional summer weeks of instruction for all students. Yikes!!!

Wasn’t there a last day of school rhyme? No more pencils, no more books, no more…

We know true learning is built up layer by layer, year after year; whether that schooling entails large, grand concepts or simple everyday minutiae that add some clarity to our mental construct about living, learning, readin’, writin’ and ‘rtithmetic (Was it all so simple then? Weren’t THOSE the days?), some data is making its way through our senses into our cerebral processing unit.

As parents and guardians there is an overwhelming amount on your daily plate. Selfishly, we here at The Rose Brucia Education Foundation, ask that you also continue to work on refining and developing the stranger safety skills we have emphasized this year. Our goal is to make a child’s behavior as instinctual as possible, to prevent that momentary freeze that allows an amoral person, harboring a truly feral humanoid beast within their hearts to enter a child’s personal space, to plant a seed of excitement for a free gift, to get a child to willingly enter that stranger’s car, to cajole a child, to dupe a child into helping find that fictitious lost pet. We want a learned habit to become an instant reflex. We need to make our children proficient in withstanding the magnetic, perverse allure of those who would visit evil on them.

We ask you to talk with your child(ren) about what you mean by the term reaction, how many reactions are instilled before birth-responses to hot, cold, to touch, to itch, to blinking to name a few. Talk about learned responses-leaves of three, let them be, how a puppy can be trained, whatever comes to mind. Work on a child’s awareness of his or her surroundings. If we take them to a movie theater and the theater is required by law to identify the location of fire exits, then shouldn’t we work on developing a natural exit from the advance of an unknown stranger into our children’s play space?

Ask your children to describe the hallway they just walked down in your home. Ask them to describe what is on a shelf behind them. Rearrange the items the next day and ask what is different. Ask them to state the color of your neighbor’s cars. Work up to ever more inclusive or exclusive queries.

Psych, a show about a supposed psychic detective, relied upon the hero’s skill as a talented observer of all he saw. In flashback sequences, the hero’s father would demand the son focus and tell him exactly what he had just seen.   Imagine you and your child at Mickey D’s, DQ, or any fast food restaurant.  Ask questions about the room and its occupants: How many people were working behind the counter? What color were their uniforms? How many tables were occupied? How many people were sitting alone? You get the point. But, remember, the kids will in turn ask you questions. Be ready!  Silly?  Perhaps. Complicated? If you make it so. Just get them to focus, to be on their toes.

Instill the basic rules for safety but reinforce how truly important they are for the summer months. Redefine and strengthen your family concepts of trust and the reasons you want your children to give their trust to someone. Work again on the idea of personal space.

Please practice the Stranger Safety Awareness skills presented to your children during the simple lessons provided by RBEF.

  • Ensure your children know who strangers are.
  • Practice the correct and safe way to deal with strangers at the door.
  • Select a secret word/password for identification of trusted adults or teenagers by your children.
  • Instill the proper way of dealing with being lost at the mall or in a big store.
  • Go over the proper response to an emergency.
  • Model the mirroring technique for maintaining a safe distance from a stranger.

There’s nothin’ can harm you

Let’s make it so! Be safe!

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

 

Live & Learn or Learn and Live?

By Patrick M. Chierichella

Educational Coordinator

The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation

I enjoy the Sunday edition of the New York Times. I look forward to the various sections: Arts and Leisure, Week in Review, Sports, the Magazine and Travel. But most of all, I love reading the Book Review. While I do not rush out and buy every title that catches my eye, I find that I do go to the library and look for titles to which the reviewers refer in their opinion piece. Of late, I came across a review of An Enlarged Heart by Cynthia Zarin. What struck me was the quote excerpted from her work that the reviewer boldly placed in the middle of the article. “We learn more than we ever wanted to know about things we wish we’d never heard of,” Zarin writes. THAT sentence caught my eye.

“Live and learn!”  Wasn’t that one of those adages our parents were fond of?

  • Be too trusting of a friend or even a relative – Live and learn!
  • Don’t study for a test – Live and learn!
  • Forget to fill the gas tank for that barbecue – Live and learn!
  • That used car salesman you trusted?
  • I’m sure you’ve heard these words before: “should have, could have, would have”.

You are the primary teacher of your child/children. You teach them to talk, to learn their ABC’s, to learn to count. You teach them fundamentals for sport, dance, social skills and personal hygiene. I smile when I see the car commercial in which a father is teaching his son how to throw a baseball. It is at once touching, awkward, even painful, but still a life lesson:  a father teaching a skill to his son. Isn’t it amazing how children will do their utmost to copy their parent? Do you practice EDITH (Exit Drills in the House)? I remember reviewing this strategy with my children over 35 years ago.

Do you work on this necessary awareness skill? Can your child/children describe their personal space? A simple activity such as having the child stand with arms stretched to the sides is a good start in attaining a working definition of personal space. Have the child turn in a circular path. The area contained within this circle is the child’s personal space. Show the child your personal space. Have the child compare the two areas. Kristyn  Crow blogs Activities that Teach. She proposes the following: Explain that this area is his “personal space.” Now you do the same and demonstrate “your” space. This helps the child to visualize what the space “looks” like. Now put your arms down at your sides and have your child slowly walk toward you. Tell him to stop just before he thinks he has reached the edge of your personal space. When he stops to make his guess, raise your arms out straight and slowly turn in place. If you bump him with your arm, he has to try again.

  • Ask the child who should be allowed into their personal space.
  • Ask the child a reason for letting those people into that space.
  • Impress upon the child the need to keep another person’s space from touching or overlapping his/her space, especially if the child does not know the person, be it man, woman or child.
  • Make it similar to a game of tag: you the adult are “IT” and if your personal space touches the child’s personal space, the child becomes “IT”. As the child becomes adept at avoiding being tagged, change the emphasis to increasing the time he/she avoids being tagged. This activity is simple and easily taught.

Why urge teaching young children such skills? The world changes minute by minute. Our children and grandchildren live in a world fraught with peril. In the fall of 2012, there were numerous reported incidences of attempted child abductions in Bergen County, New Jersey. In October 2012, Jessica Ridgeway was abducted and murdered in Colorado. Again, in October of 2012, Autumn Pasquale was abducted and murdered in Gloucester County, New Jersey. Recently, in Deer Park, New York, there were reported incidents of children on the way to school being approached by strangers in cars. It doesn’t stop.

This awareness teaching has to begin early and be reinforced throughout a child’s life. The odds for dire consequences are statistically long. Would any of us like to be on the losing end of a bet about our children’s safety? A friend of mine, a personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach and a member of the staff of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, always has some thought-provoking statement on her website. She quotes John Wooden:  If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?

That is so applicable to the issue at hand. Our children’s safety is of paramount concern. We have to get it right!  That’s why we are here. Our special thanks to the Parkville Elementary School of the Great Neck Public School for trusting us to present our program at a PTO meeting that was attended, not only by concerned parents and teachers at the site, but also by superintendent Thomas Dolan and members of his central office administration. Our program does not succeed without the trust and support of parents such as: Maria Angelaras, president of the Parkville PTO; principal Debra Shalom and social worker Judi Kohn. They had enough faith in us to ask us to put on two performances of our introductory lessons to the pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes. To the staff at Parkville, a huge Thanks! After our most recent performance, a teacher approached us and applauded our efforts. I said, “I hope you will have us back.” I got the words I wanted to hear: Oh, you will be back here!

Let us help.

About The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation
Founded by Matthew J. Barbis after his 11-year-old cousin, Carlie Brucia, was abducted and murdered in Sarasota, FL in 2004. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation’s goal is to reduce the number of child abductions in the U.S. by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction. Utilizing puppets and a formalized educational curriculum, the foundation provides elementary-aged children with the Stranger Safety Awareness Program, free of charge. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

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