During a conference on “Understanding and Supporting the Law Enforcement Family,” Dr. James Reese, a sought-after speaker and expert on stress and trauma, shared 13 tips for getting better in tune with your family and preventing them from becoming victims of your law enforcement career. Calibre Press was present at the conference some years ago and we felt now would be an excellent time to re-share the tips that were offered:
1. Your family should always come before your work. The job supports your life. Your life and the lives of your family are not there to support the job.
2. Remember to check your “image armor” at the door when it’s time to be with your family. What you act like at work to protect yourself and control situations doesn’t work at home in the family setting. Find a place where you can mentally and psychologically transition from the job to your family. That can even be just sitting in your car staring at a field until you decompress.
3. Law enforcement has a tendency to cause officers to give up peace and joy in their lives. You have to constantly reestablish it. Find something you and your family love and just go out and do it…even if you think you “don’t have time.” Make the time. Be happy with your family.
4. Your personal goals should always come before your professional goals. Take the time to write your personal goals down so you can refer to them from time to time. If you find time for yourself, you’ll find time for your family.
5. Make this a rule: Never enter the house and make it less happy.
6. To be in the right frame of mind on the street and at home, you need to: A) Develop spirituality. Have something to believe in, a “higher power” to turn to when you need help. B) Avoid ever doing anything at work that would bring dishonor to your family. If you get in trouble by doing something foolish and avoidable, you dishonor not only yourself but your family. You owe it to them to do your job professionally and positively.
7. Never compare your family to the problem families you deal with while working.
8. Admit your vulnerability. It’s OK to say: I don’t know…I was wrong…I’m sorry…I’m afraid.
9. If you’re having problems with your family members at home, your response shouldn’t be, “What’s your problem?” A more appropriate response would be, “What would make things better for us?”
10. Don’t try to change the person you married. You married who and what you like. Why do they need to be changed?
11. Anger is a choice you make. It is avoidable and controllable.
12. Allow your family members personal space.
13. The present is a gift. Accept it as such. You can’t change what happened yesterday, but you can work on making today and tomorrow better if you want to. You can’t predict the future, but you can influence it.