New Year’s resolutions take many forms: losing weight, repairing family relationships, reconnecting with old friends, beginning and adhering to exercise regimens, enrolling in some adult education program to learn a new language, saving more and spending less. You can add to this list, of that I’m sure. Maybe you’ll work on your golf swing, lower you handicap. Perhaps your serve or volley can be improved in that tennis game of yours. It just takes time and dedication. You know the old chestnut? How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice! Practice! Practice!
I’ve found myself watching some movies, old and new, as I wait for the flu to exit the family. One is the Fritz Lang classic, M, from 1931. This German film recounts the efforts by both the police and the city’s criminal element to apprehend a child murderer. The beginning of the film illustrates feints, shams, ploys used by the abductor to lure the children to their fates. He uses simple gifts of candy, smiles, and balloons as offers for the children to willingly walk away hand in hand with him. The scenes of the abduction are harrowing. The pursuit of the fiend is intense. The last scene focuses on mothers of murdered children clothed head to toe in black, their faces alone offering any respite from the stark black backdrop, admonishing the audience, “You must watch out for the children.”
A newer movie, a TV film, is Under/Over, a pilot for a proposed USA series. Something in the film made me upset. If the scene was to be comic relief, the scriptwriter chose an uncomfortable way to produce at best a nervous laugh from some people. The “hero” of the story is sitting on a bench overlooking the East River. Several feet away a young boy is sitting with his mother and younger sibling. The mother’s attention is on the younger child. The older boy, one of those incredibly articulate and forthright children we see so often in film, approaches the gentleman on the bench. He says without hesitation to the man, “Where is your baby?” The man responds, “I don’t have a baby.” “Then,” the child replies “are you a sexual predator?” The man says, “There are so many ways for me to answer that!”
Eighty-two years between films and look how cavalier the attitude has become as our societies become more complex. Unmitigated grief and jaded humor contrasted. I am not confusing the quality of the films, but rather the attitudes towards the question of sexual predation. Name a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, godparent, cousin, psychologist, social worker, police officer, who thinks the issue of child predation is a joking matter!
Over the years, we have learned that newborns at birth have some instinctual reactions: hot and cold, response to touch, itch, and blinking. Nature provides from the moment of birth. Other reactions are obviously learned. These learned reactions can be improved throughout a lifetime. But that improvement requires mentoring, an urging to be better at what one is doing.
Without doubt, you are the first and the most influential teacher in the development of your children. You feed and nurture them along the growth continuum that leads to their entry into their adulthood. You have taught them to walk, to socialize, and to talk, which some educational psychologists say is the single most difficult activity your children encounter before entry into school. Parenting is nerve-wracking, difficult and fulfilling. You have the memories to prove it.
Others have different memories, decidedly more painful ones. Child abduction is an issue that will not go away. Congress passed into law the Missing Children Act in 1982. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was created in 1984. Amber Alerts are part of our national lexicon. Abductions continue. Check your local newspapers and you’ll see a small article every so often about children disappearing throughout our nation. These, such as Carlie Brucia who have been murdered, and every exploited child who has not been reunited with their family, are tragic examples of what can happen in one moment.
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.
You sit with your children and go over their daily homework assignments. You help them with their long-term projects. In a perfect world child protection would not be a concern. That concern must be addressed by all of us. The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation asks that your family review the principles of Stranger Safety Awareness long after the lessons have been presented. It is our belief it does make a difference.