The Family Business: What advice can we pass onto our LEO children?
As parents we have always been conscious how our law enforcement careers have impacted our children. When they were younger our daughter and son had to endure many lectures about the behavior of kids and adults we encountered while on the job. The joke in our home was the kids were “grounded” all the time because of what we saw on the streets.
Now we have the unique opportunity to see both of our now adult children entering the law enforcement family. Our daughter works in administration for the Texas Department of Public Safety and her husband works for the Hays County Sheriff’s Office. Our son recently left the Marine Corps to pursue a career as a DPS Texas State Trooper. His wife, a Navy veteran, is a full time college student and super mommy to our granddaughter.
So now as parents we have been presented with the unique opportunity of passing on our knowledge about what it’s like to be a cop and a spouse. So what do we want our kids and their spouses to know?
Here is what we came up with…
- Law Enforcement is a calling but don’t let it consume or control your life.
We all experience the awesome feeling of becoming a cop. It’s like being on top of the world! We can’t wait to go to work and don’t want to go home after the tour of duty is over. Keep your hobbies you had before you became a cop. Don’t lose sight you had a life and a family before the job so don’t exclude them from your new law enforcement world. There are plenty of LEO support groups your family can join, so let them. They want to be a part of your world. You can also make sure you are part of their world too. It’s a two way street. Your family is your foundation. Don’t ever forget that.
- Allow your officer to decompress when they get home.
We know this point has been written about before but it’s true. Your officer has been out there making critical decisions for hours. Sometimes these decisions are about life and death. Let him or her get home and remove all the equipment and uniform. They are regaining their humanity again to be the person you love. The next point is the other side of the coin officers shouldn’t forget.
- Don’t trivialize your spouse or children’s day, problems or events – communicate and listen.
Hey cops, let’s be blunt … Don’t be an a*****e! The high-octane job can cause a lot of mental stress. If your family is allowing you to decompress then you can also take the time to listen to them about their day. Don’t be dismissive. While their issues may not be as life altering or dangerous as what you see, they still need you to be there for them. Also don’t try and solve their problems if they don’t need it. They just want you to listen. When you need help ask for it and don’t be stubborn to take advice from your family. They know you best. Sometimes they knew you before you became a cop.
- Spouses need to be prepared to listen to the crazy things your officers see.
We are strong advocates of peer support. Spouses can be a great peer support resource for their officers. If they need to talk about the horrors to you then have an agreement to listen. Don’t shut them out. They need to get those images out of their minds or at least lesson the impact of them. Just let them know if you want to hear a readers digest version or the uncensored version. As peers we always hear the uncensored version from critical incidents. But we are strangers to these officers at times. We often hear from officers who wanted to talk about things with their spouses. Unfortunately their spouses cut them off. So they turned to other people who would listen or other destructive avenues, which are never productive for a LEO family. Once again we stress the importance to communicate and listen.
- Make time for each other despite the challenging work schedules.
Depending on your officer’s work schedule personal time should mean date nights, lunches, breakfasts, family events. Plan a getaway even if it’s just a day trip or one night stay. It’s always a battle and easy to complain about the crazy work schedule or days off. Think outside of the box and accept the challenge to find the quality time to spend together as a couple and a family.
- Never lose hope for humanity
As time goes by it will be easy as an officer and family to believe the worst about people outside of your personal and LEO families. This is why we have to remind ourselves of all that is good in the world. Don’t become jaded. Turn the news off and put away the social media for a while. Have your own “Blue Bloods” family dinner to enjoy each other. That’s what we do. It can be hard but try to stay positive.
While there are so many topics and subtopics to discuss we feel these six are a great start for our family and yours. On a final personal note, to our children we would request that you listen to your parents.
Cathy & Javier Bustos are law enforcement officers in Central Texas. As “That Peer Support Couple” they are strong peer support advocates speaking about surviving critical incidents and marriage. You can contact them at email@example.com.
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