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Being raised in a police family is challenging. Here are the 3 biggest ways being raised in a police family can affect your kids, plus strategies to help.
As proud as you are of your police officer husband, there’s no point denying it makes for a very different family life.
Being a police family means your life gets pretty crazy. While your husband is off fighting crime, you’ve got most of the child-raising responsibility on your plate – whether you work or not. And with his schedule and unpredictable emotional state as a result of the job, there’s undoubtedly going to be an extra strain most families don’t have.
The thing is, even if you’re strong enough to handle this life, when kids are put into the mix, it gets extra crazy.
All those things – the unpredictable schedule, the shift work, the stress, the solo parenting – can have a greater impact on your kids than you. They just don’t have the perspective or life experience you have that can help them through it.
That being said, you can absolutely help support them and help them develop the tools they need to grow up awesomely – no matter what your husband does for work!
3 Ways Being Raised In A Police Family Affects Kids – And How To Help
The uncertain nature of law enforcement is hard on kids. You never know when he’s going to be home, for one thing. Even though you and he might know his shift, your kids won’t be quite so accommodating of all the shifting. They won’t understand why he’s gone for days on end, or why he’s sleeping when you guys are awake, etc.
That uncertainty might cause them to feel insecure, because they’re not sure what to expect on a given day.
Strategies to combat uncertainty:
- Keep your word. When you make a promise, keep it – and if it’s absolutely not possible, explain why not, apologize, and do what you can to make it right. Even if they can’t know exactly what’s going to happen at any given time, they can know that their parents keep their word – which will help them feel much more secure. There’s a whole host of reasons to keep promises to your kids, really.
- Help your husband keep his word. When your husband makes promises, the best thing to do is have Plan A or Plan B – even Plan C if you can think of one. That way, your kids know that if one thing falls through, they know what else will happen instead.
- Help kids take responsibility at home. Feeling uncertain and insecure has a lot to do with feeling out of control. By giving your kids responsibilities, you’re helping them feel like an important part of the family. You can do this by asking for help with chores (even if it takes twice as long!), getting their input on family decisions (and listening to it!), and mentioning when they do something helpful (even if it was just an attempt, and it wasn’t actually all that helpful ;))
- If your kids are really comforted by having routines, try to develop a rough routine each day, even if you can’t have a set schedule on which that routine happens. Like, even if you can’t guarantee dinner will be at 5, set up a routine where they get to watch something on TV while you make dinner, then you eat dinner together. The timing doesn’t necessarily matter – the routine does. Again, you might have kids who aren’t comforted by routines, per se (hand raised here!) – so do what’s right for your family.
Even with all the uncertainty of being a police family, you can help your kids feel safer and more secure in their lives.
While your kids might not be impacted by the fear of police life quite the same way you are, it’s still going to be something that affects them.
When they’re young, that fear might arise when Daddy’s not there during a thunderstorm or they’ve had a bad dream and don’t want you – just their dad – to make it better.
When they’re older, they might hear bad stuff on the news or through other kids at school. As they start to understand the danger of being a police officer, that fear may grow.
Unfortunately, a lot of these fears aren’t ones you can easily talk them out of or rationalize away. But the good news is, that’s not really your job: your job is to give them the tools they need to deal with fear, not protect them from it.
Strategies to combat fear:
- Acknowledge how they feel. Remind them that it’s okay to feel afraid sometimes. You can tell them that you feel afraid sometimes, too, which opens up a good conversation about how you personally deal with fear – whether you do something to distract yourself, think of stuff that makes you happy, or pray. Whatever tools you use, they can use, too.
- Comfort them. Give them lots of hugs and kisses when they need it. Let them sleep in your room (even if it’s just on the floor) on particularly bad nights. Sometimes I’ve seen parents who think comforting their kids like this can make them “soft”, but to help your kids be strong and feel secure, they need to know how much you love them. Be their safe place to land when life is scary.
- Be honest. I think in a lot of parents, there’s an understandable tendency to want to hide things from their kids. They want to hide the ugliness of life because they want to keep their kids innocent for as long as they can. Trust me, I get it. The thing is, hiding things just makes them seem scarier. If you find ways to talk about them in an age-appropriate way, there are lots of benefits. For one thing, those things won’t seem so scary, because they’re not unknown. For another, they’ll know it’s safe to talk to you about those things. Finally, they’ll know they can trust you to tell them what’s up when they need to know.
You don’t have to raise your kids in a bubble and protect them from the bad things. First and foremost, they need the tools to use to lead a happy, productive life – and you’re the absolute best person to provide them with those tools.
Side note: there are lots of great Daniel Tiger episodes on the subject of helping kids deal with fear.
A strained relationship with the police officer parent
Being raised in a police family means there will be lots of sporting events and dance recitals that Daddy can’t be present at, no matter how badly he wants to be there – and that’s just one of the big things that can cause a rift between your children and their father.
When your kids are too young to understand the nature of your husband’s job, it’s understandable that this would make them feel angry, confused, or scared.
And even when they’re older, even when they understand a little better, it can still be hard for them to deal with. Heck, even you have a hard time dealing with it sometimes, right?
Recognizing that this can be an issue is the first step toward rectifying it.
Strategies to help the relationship between your kids and their father:
- Help your kids express their love. No matter how strained the relationship might be, your kids love their father. Helping your kids make stuff for your husband when he’s gone or choosing small gifts for him at the store can help make their relationship feel more special. (Again, this one is well documented by Daniel Tiger – be sure to check out that freebie!)
- Keep your husband in the loop. Let him know when your kids are struggling and what the issue is. You might remind him of special events, or generally good times for him to bring home a surprise or to plan some quality one-on-one time with his kids. He might feel awkward at times, too, because he’s not around as much, so if you can help make it simpler for him, the relationship on both sides can be better.
- Build your relationship with your kids. As the more present parent, the better relationship you have with your kids, the happier they’ll be – and the more they’ll trust you, respect you, and be inclined to follow your example.
- Talk about your husband. Tell your kids about what he was like when they were first born, how much he loves them, stuff he loves doing with them, stuff he loves about them – anything and everything. Help them develop the warm fuzzy feelings for their father, even when he’s away – that way, when they’re together, they have a deeper level of respect and love for him already.
- Talk about being a police officer. Talk about your husband’s job and why it’s so important. Help them understand why he has to work weird hours and why you’re so proud of him. Keep it age-appropriate, for sure – but helping kids understand what their father does and why can play a big role in helping them cope with everything.
Even when LEO life strains the relationship between your kids and their father, there are still lots of ways you can help improve it.
Being raised in a police family isn’t easy. Doing the raising isn’t easy, either: but don’t for a second think it’s not possible to have a happy family life under those circumstances! You’ve just got to know what issues might come up and have a plan of attack for them 🙂