By Matthew Loux, criminal justice faculty member at American Military University
One thing I have learned throughout my years in law enforcement is that, whatever change you go through on the job—whether you change jobs, transfer units, or retire—the one constant in your life will be your family. Successfully weathering change is best done with strong family support. However, building and maintaining these important family bonds require constant attention and nurturing—spend as much time as possible with your family and never take them for granted!
A few years ago, I did some calculations and found that I spent a minimum of 60 hours a week at work when I summed working hours and commuting time. By the time I got home and ate dinner with my wife and kids, I only spent about 10 weekday hours with my children and maybe about five additional hours with my wife. This realization spurred me to make a change and figure out how to spend more quality time with my family.
Here are a few ways I learned to improve my family relationships:
Focus on Communicating at Home
As law enforcement officers, we are trained to communicate on traffic stops, during interviews and hostage negotiations, and through writing reports. Don’t forget that it is vitally important to communicate with your family as well. Communication with your family members must be open and a two-way street.
Remember, you are not trying to get a confession from your family members, but rather trying to exchange information and get to know them better. When you communicate stay positive, look for nonverbal clues, and be honest. Also, remember that one of the most important elements of communication is listening; listen intently to your spouse and children.
Make Time for a Weekly Date Night
Children are extremely important, but it is also important to spend one-on-one time with your significant other. Date nights each week are a great place to start.
A date does not need to be expensive or time-consuming. Find something you both have in common and make it a date. Dates involve having dinner or ice cream, playing a sport, going for a walk, going on a picnic, or any other activity you both like to do—anything that lets you spend time together and reconnect.
Get Involved in Each Other’s Lives
There are so many ways to get involved in your children’s lives. You can volunteer at school or an activity they are involved in, eat lunch with them at school, or take them out on a date. Something as simple as asking your child to play a game can go a long way to building your relationship. The goal is to talk with them, learn more about them as an individual, and ultimately show them that you care.
Take Vacations Together
You may think your department cannot function without you but, in reality, it’s your family that can’t get along without you. Take time to get away from everything and go on vacation together. Talk about some places you would like to visit, plan together, and then budget for it.
Be sure to get the whole family involved planning the activities, routes, flights, etc. Consulting them about vacation activities and logistics makes them feel important and valued and contributes to sense of family togetherness. I have found that my children really love helping to plan our vacations as much as the vacations themselves.
Start Family Traditions
Traditions are an important part of family life. You can start by continuing the traditions your family had growing up or you can create some of your own. Traditions are not just for holidays either—you can start traditions around whatever occasion you wish.
Traditions can be as simple as going around the dinner table and having everyone share their high and low points of the day or involve designating one night a week for a family activity.
Share Your Family History
It is so important to share stories about your family. Start by telling your children about your own childhood experience. Ask your parents or grandparents to share their stories and knowledge of the family and to share photographs and other family artifacts with you and your children. You can make it a family project to research your family history using sites like ancestry.com. Start collecting these family stories now so your children can continue sharing the family legacy as they grow up.
About the Author: Matt Loux has been in law enforcement for more than 20 years and has a background in fraud, criminal investigation, as well as hospital, school, and network security. Matt has researched and studied law enforcement and security best practices for the past 10 years.