Children of Law Enforcement Officers: Coping with Current Events

Children of law enforcement officers face unique challenges that other children simply don’t encounter. Whereas other kids’ parents might head to a construction site, a classroom, or an office each morning, children of law enforcement know that their parents are heading out to the streets on a daily basis, where they can encounter various dangerous situations.

While these kids may not be privy to the full details of the situations their parents encounter, kids tend to know more than we realize, and this can sometimes result in substantial fear, worry, and anxiety for the children of law enforcement officers. Parents can help their kids to manage the sometimes difficult nature of their parents’ careers by talking about issues and specific fears as they arise. Communication — simply talking — is often the best way to help children to process emotions and responses to situations.

Parent Safety

Many children of law enforcement fear most that their parent on the force will be harmed in the line of duty. Overhearing discussions about the loss of coworkers, seeing news stories that talk about police officers getting shot and/or killed, and understanding that their parent is on the first line of defense against all the people who cause harm in the world can cause a high level of stress in children of law enforcement, regardless of their age. Rather than feeling protected, a child may constantly worry about their parent, wondering if he or she will come home that day, and be hyper aware of the many risks and dangers of life as a police officer.

Personal Safety

If a child feels that a parent is threatened due to the nature of that parent’s line of work, the child may also feel personally unsafe as well. Feeling that the parent may get hurt in the line of duty may leave a child feeling exposed and unprotected — if Mommy or Daddy was taken down by the bad guy, what chance does the child have?

Parents can help children to feel stronger by reminding them of all the safety measures that are in place (e.g., other police officers, safe neighborhood, alarm systems, the parent or caregiver who is with them, etc.). Parents can also emphasize the importance of the job and the fact that the law enforcement parent will always do everything possible to come home.

Helping Your Child Cope

· Minimize exposure to constant news coverage and graphic news stories.

· Emphasize the positive aspects of the job for your child.

· Minimize exposure to death and loss in the law enforcement community or directed threats against police by specific groups.

· Check in periodically with your children, whether or not they are outwardly expressing any fear or discomfort to see how they are feeling.

· Consider taking your children to a professional who can use play therapy and/or talk therapy to help them work through fears and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

This article was originally published by James E. Morrison, retired Chicago Police Officer and Employee Assistance Program Treatment Consultant for Law Enforcement at American Addiction Centers, on LinkedIn.