5 ways cops can better connect with their children

A great way to reduce the stress out on patrol that gets generated at home is to have a happy home that you leave and return to in the first place

One of the great stresses on law enforcement officers is family conflict. We all know not to bring it with us to the job, and not to take the job home, but the truth is we just aren’t wired that way. That means we have to be very intentional in turning down the burners in both directions. 

A great way to reduce the stress out on patrol that gets generated at home is to have a happy home that you leave and return to in the first place. Obviously that takes some effort, but here are a few opportunities to improve communicating with your kids, whether you have one or five waiting for you at the end of your shift.

1. Share War Stories
You know how frustrating it is when you ask your kid what they did today and they shrug and say “nuthin,” so don’t do that to them. Clearly, you have to edit your experiences, but a story of how you helped someone or how your buddies at work helped you will let your child or teen know something about your life that may help them feel connected to you even when you’re away at work. 

A few sad accounts are OK too, as long as you can provide some perspective, such as relating how thankful you are for your family’s wellbeing. 

Being honest without dumping stories on your family can keep you connected. 

2. Do Chores Together
If you have chores for your kids, consider doing them alongside them. It shows that you consider them a partner, and it gives you an opportunity to model good character (or even some occasional complaining) about responsibility. It is a natural way to get into their space, and then conversation can come naturally. 

Consider doing charity work together like volunteering in the community clean up or homeless shelter. These are great opportunities for a child to see your heart. 

3. Talk About Money
Take time to let your kids in on how money works. Instead of saying “We can’t afford it” let them see the numbers. There are many good online resources for helping children and teens learn about giving, saving, and spending. 

If you happen to be in a tight money situation, be honest and start enlisting the whole family toward healthier family finances. That’s a team sport that will make a lasting impression.

4. Kill the Devices
Establish a time or zone in which digital is out and carbon based life forms are in. We’ve all seen parents out with their family in parks or restaurants only to engage with their screens, so it’s not just the kids with the digital addiction. 

Whether it’s dinner time or in the car or during a family meeting, you’re not going to get reported to the child abuse hotline for making sure the kids go thirty minutes with no texts. 

5. Introduce Them to Other (Trusted) Adults
My wife and I frequented coffee shops when our kids were teenagers. Since having an old fashioned leisurely conversation around the dinner table seemed too hard to pull off, the coffee shop was where we would meet our kids, their friends, and our friends, too. Politics, religion, sports, and fashion were just some of the topics of conversation. There was a lot of laughter and sharing. 

I’m not the only one who worries that this generation of young people has evolved to be unable to hold a rational conversation with an adult. We segregate by age way too much these days, especially in a culture where going from child to adult is not a very clear process. The word “adult” is attached to a lot of negative behavior but conversation with adult is important for young people.

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