Building a solid relationship with your children as a police officer requires intentional effort and consistent action.
As police officers, we have demanding jobs that often require us to work long hours, have irregular schedules, and expose ourselves to dangerous situations. All of which can be amplified if you work in a high-risk/high-reward, like narcotics or gangs, as I did. This work significantly affects our personal lives, especially our relationships with our children. Due to the nature of this work, we often experience difficulty detaching from our job and being fully present with our families. This difficulty in detaching can lead to adverse outcomes for officers and their families, such as higher stress levels and lower satisfaction with family life. Building strong relationships with our children is crucial for our emotional well-being and the well-being of our families.
As a gang detective, I experienced firsthand how police officers’ jobs can impact our children. One day, I was pacing around the house while talking to an informant, using inappropriate language. My 2-year-old son had begun mimicking my behavior by pacing around and pretending to talk on the phone. I was shocked to hear him use the f-word. This incident made me realize I wasn’t fully present as a parent.
According to the National Institute of Justice, police officers report higher levels of work-family conflict than other occupations. The conflict can potentially cause unfavorable effects on officers’ families, such as heightened stress levels and decreased contentment with their home life. Officers struggling to detach from their job may experience guilt or frustration over missed family events and feel disconnected from their children.
One effective way to improve your relationships with your children is to prioritize communication. You can create an environment of open communication where children feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with them. You must show empathy toward your children’s emotions, be willing to listen to them and ask questions about their day-to-day activities. This approach will help your children feel heard and supported while helping you process your own emotions and experiences. Take it from me; this is easier said than done. I often want to talk and fix their problems, but that is not what they always need from us.
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Fun activities are another great way for you to connect with your children. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, playing with children is essential for their development and can help parents build positive relationships. Play games, hike, or engage in other activities your children enjoy. These activities can help you and your children bond over shared interests and create positive memories that will last a lifetime.
In addition to spending quality time with your children, you can participate in activities that help model healthy behaviors and values. For example, teach your children about the importance of physical fitness and healthy eating by going on runs or cooking meals together. You can model kindness and empathy by volunteering or participating in community events.
Here are some specific suggestions for how you can detach from their job and build better relationships with your children:
- Establish clear boundaries between work and home life. Make an effort to leave work at work and to be fully present with your family when they are at home. This may require setting specific times for work-related tasks, such as checking emails and sticking to those times.
- Prioritize quality time with your children. Spend one-on-one time with each child and engage in activities they enjoy. This can help your child feel valued and can strengthen the parent-child bond.
- Listen actively to your children. It would help if you tried to listen to your children’s concerns and feelings without judgment or interruption. This can help your child feel heard and validated and help officers better understand their children’s needs.
- Share positive experiences with your children. You should try to share positive experiences with your children, such as stories about successful arrests or positive interactions with community members. This can help your children understand and appreciate officers’ vital work.
- Model healthy behaviors and values. You should model healthy behaviors and values for your children, such as physical fitness, healthy eating, and kindness. This can help your children develop positive habits and values that serve them well.
Building a solid relationship with your children as a police officer requires intentional effort and consistent action. By prioritizing your time and energy with your family, engaging in fun activities, and fostering open communication, you can create a positive and healthy home environment for your children. Being a good parent is not about being perfect or having all the answers but rather about showing up and being present for your children. By practicing self-care and investing in your family, you can become a better parent and police officer.
Let us know what works well for you in building relationships with your kids and what activities you enjoy doing with your kids in the comments section.