Social media is a powerful tool. Officer.com has outstanding Facebook and Twitter pages where you can get police news and information around the clock. Our “JD Buck Savage” Facebook pages have over 13,000 unique friends and fans that share our “Not Today” mindset and are always willing to provide excellent insight when it comes to law enforcement issues. We recently asked them share just one thing they believe would help police families. Over 500 people responded…some directly on the page, some wrote us privately...and all were thought provoking.
Being “present” when you are home was a very common suggestion. It’s not enough to be at home, you’ve also got to be engaged with whose at home. Make the most of your off duty time with your family. Make “date night” with your kid or your spouse or partner a priority. Volunteer at your child’s school or meet them for lunch if you work nights and aren’t home in the evening. “Unplug” from electronics, including your smart phone, computer and television. (as one friend said “power down and listen up!”) If you’re in an assignment that requires you to be on call some of the time, make sure that when you’re not on call you’re spending time with the family. Eat a meal together, and as one friend’s 10 year old son so aptly stated: “Don’t forget to be fun.” Another friend gave this excellent advice:
“Tell them that you love them each and everyday and just as, if not more importantly, show them. You do that by being present, by being there in the moment even if it's only a few minutes a day. You let them know that by making them, not your job, your passion in life. You show it by keeping communication open. Never leave the house to go on shift without saying, "I love you", even if you say it through clenched teeth because you're angry or upset. Live within your means so you don't spend all of your off duty time working extra shifts to pay for all the stuff you bought to have fun with, but now no longer have time to do. Learn to say you’re sorry. Learn to forgive if you want to be forgiven. On the street you need to control those around you for your safety, at home remember that you are a part of the family not the house cop!”
Understand your family’s fears and stresses. We often forget that our family members worry about us. We might get hurt or experience a crisis or, unthinkably, not come home at the end of our shift. If you can, facilitate a family/spouse support group so that they have others to talk to and commiserate with about being part of a police family. Many also suggested that cops need to share their own fears and concerns, including what they do and what they experience to some extent so that our families understand the world we live in. And as one friend said
“Don’t be a cop at home” was a statement that sparked some debate on our pages. So many crimefighters and family members said “work should stay at work.” Others disagreed, saying its okay to “vent” to your family if you keep it reasonable. Others said “live a balanced life.” Be a great cop, but also coach you kid’s sports team, go to church, have non-police friends. I think one of our friends put it very well: “minimize the ‘cop related stuff’ on days off. Don’t be a cop at home, be the person they fell in love with.” Appreciate the sacrifices that your family makes every day.
Communicate! Share your hopes, dreams, hobbies and interests. “Talk more, drink less” one friend said. Another told us “listen with compassion, love with conviction” when it comes to family. Share what you do and see, don’t hide it. Communicate with your family when you’re on duty too, let them know what’s going on and that you’re okay and you miss them. Learn to truly listen. A friend took the time to share this:
“There are only so many hours in the day. Watch commanders make us stay late, prosecutors call us in on our time off, criminals and Mother Nature subject us to the most horrible scenes imaginable-and then we have to go home to our families. Holding the world on our shoulders takes an enormous physical and emotional toll over time. We have to learn how to maintain that balance. TELL your family you love them. TAKE the time off you need to be there for important school functions, for date night, and for family functions.
For those of us in supervisory roles, ENCOURAGE your troops to spend time with and be involved in their family activities. Make the effort to emphasize the belief that family comes first. Make sure to be approachable when it comes to requests for time off. Go to bat for your people when they ask for time, to the best. Communicate with your loved ones. You may not want to relive the fatality crash you just worked, but your family doesn't know that...it can be as simple as, "I had a really tough shift, and I'd rather not talk about my day, how was yours.” Make time, not excuses. It's not easy, but then again we didn't choose the easiest path in life.”
Many people also suggested reading “I Love a Cop” and “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement,” two excellent books for police families. We learn so much when we listen to our families and listen to each other. Show this article to your own family members and see what they have to say. Ask them what you can do to make their lives better, and listen carefully to their answers. You won’t always be a cop, but you’ll forever be part of a cherished family.
Officer.com Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/officercom
JD Buck Savage Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/jdbucksavage
“I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know” www.ellenkirschman.com
“Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” www.emotionalsurvival.com