Family is an officer’s first priority. Our family author takes a look at what it’s like for every officer when their child enters college.
It’s every officer’s nightmare. Your beautiful daughter heads off for her first year in college. When it’s spring break week, she chooses to spend her time with her friends, which inevitably involves parties. Then, THAT GUY shows up, slurred speech, beer in hand, and very much interested in your little baby you brought home from the hospital just yesterday. He comes on strong and won’t take polite hints. If you were there, your protective instincts would kick in, and you’d be right there to intervene. But you’re not there. She’s in danger.
All of a sudden your little sweetie, who earlier decided she would stay sober for this very reason, grabs a hand and puts the knucklehead in a classic pain compliance move. He didn’t see it coming and finds himself on his knees. He now has the understanding that this girl is indeed too hard to get. She just established that there won’t be any funny business. She also drew respect from all who witnessed it.
It’s almost like you were there.
As an officer, you see the effects of stupid decisions young people make every day. You also see the effect of evil that preys upon the young. Often these images will create fear in your mind for your family. You’re tempted to control the who, what, where, when, and how of every event. Depending on your manner and tone, this could create some problems with those at home. Some spouses and children refer to their officers as paranoid, overprotective, or overbearing. To be fair, some of you are.
So how do you prevent your family from being victims? How do you deal with the fear that is actually based on realities that you have seen with your own eyes? Here are a few suggestions:
Teach your kids their value. Tell your kids often that you love them. Show your kids often that you value them. Speak into their lives positively. Listen to their hearts. Point out their strengths and let them know you admire them. Start at birth and continue these practices into adulthood, doubling down in the teenage years (when it is most difficult to do).
Teach your kids to be aware. The truth is there are some people they can trust, and others they cannot. Talk often about age appropriate dangers. It will not take away their innocence to hear the world is a dangerous place, but make sure details are age appropriate. It will create some fear for them, but if you constantly teach them what to do in bad situations, it breeds confidence and awareness. And yes, that may include a few moves from your police training.
Teach your kids to have personal boundaries. There are limits to how others treat your kids, but they have to learn to set limits for themselves as well. Appropriate dress, treatment of others, substance use, social media, driving, dating, and situational awareness are crucial. Do not expect that they will know—parents have to train them!
Teach your kids there are natural consequences. When your kids screw up, and they will, your response is key. Don’t panic. Keep as calm as possible, avoid intense over-reactions. Even if you’re embarrassed by their behavior, adopt your professional demeanor from work, and discipline appropriately. Pain is a great teacher. After some time, forgive them. Let them know that there has to be rebuilding of trust—not angrily, but hopefully.
Teach your kids they can trust you. If you’re taking the time to teach your kids to protect themselves, and they know without a doubt that they are valuable to you, you’re building trust over the years. If you make mistakes, own them. Sincere apologies cover a multitude of mistakes. This will generate respect, and allow for real interaction.
You won’t always be there to protect your family, especially as they grow older and live their lives away from your home. But if you take the time to intentionally equip them, perhaps you’ll be able to sleep a little more soundly.
Victoria Newman is author, speaker and founder of How2LoveYourCop, an organization that provides positive resources for law enforcement families. She is author of A CHiP on my Shoulder and A Marriage in Progress, speaks all over the United States and Canada, mentors several spouses, and is a blogger and ghostwriter. Her website is www.how2loveyourcop.com.
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