The impact that anti-cop rhetoric has on police families: Here’s how to cope with it and talk to your kids

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Last week I wrote another blog called, “Being a Police Spouse Amid Rioting.” It was very popular and I considered quitting while I was ahead in order to not write another blog that will fall flat in comparison.

But since I wrote that article, things have just rolled downhill.

I write this tonight with a broken heart and a lump in my throat. I am just heartsick over all the anti-police rhetoric and hatred floating around. If it wasn’t for my social media presence (not that its significant) and my business, I think I would deactivate my account. It is completely inundated with sadness, hatefulness, and filth.

The trigger for me tonight was that I had to leave a Facebook page where the point is to spot cute dogs. All day
they have been posting dogs with signs saying “heck the police” or some, more profane ones. The last straw was a beautiful golden retriever holding a sign that said, “F 12. ACAB,” with a drawing of a dead pig with a police hat on. It was just too much.

Tonight, the city of Minneapolis voted to disband their police department. A move I fear is not going to be an isolated event. The country hates police officers so much that they would rather live in a world with out them and risk anarchy and lawlessness, than appreciate the many, many police officers that are not represented by the actions of Chauvin and his accessories. And our families are paying the price. Our children are paying the price.

I have lost friends this week because I am a vocal supporter of law enforcement. And I don’t apologize for the fact that I am outspoken on my opinions about supporting law enforcement amid the Black Lives Matter movement. Apparently, now is not the time to be outspoken if you are supporting police officers.

There is a meme (or what have you) going around of a little stick figure comic strip, shared by people who wish to explain why the “All Lives Matter” retort is so offensive. The analogy is a house on fire (black lives), next to a house that is not on fire (all lives).

The stick figure is crying out for help that his house is on fire and he needs his house to be sprayed down with water. The other stick figure insists that, while his house is not on fire, he, too, should have his house sprayed down. The comic goes on to suggest that, sure, all lives do matter. But right now, only black lives matter because their house is on fire.

Well…our house is on fire too.

Police officers have died as a result of this hate and violence. Throngs of other officers have been injured, some seriously. More police officers have been murdered this year, than there have been sensationalized, controversial cases involving police officers using lethal force against a citizen.

So, why can’t we speak out about that? How many police officers have to die for it to be okay?

While everyone is out there destroying their cities and generalizing all police officers as racist bastards, we are at home trying to cope with the danger our husbands and wives are in, and sort out our life to accommodate the new dangers.

Officers are tying up loose ends on their wills, hoping to ensure that their spouses and children are okay if they fall victim to the increased violence. They are making sure that their End of Watch packets are done.

They are going over contingency plans with their spouses to make sure they follow the right steps if that should happen.

Meanwhile, we are sending our hearts out the door and hugging our children tight, praying hard that these
contingencies won’t be needed. Our goodbyes are a little longer, and sweeter.

The visual of our officers putting on their vests and strapping on their boots is a little more intense, knowing what those items are designed for. The hours of the day are more tense. All while we are prouder than ever that our spouses face down the danger anyway.

But while our officers are at work, we are taking care of the home and the family. We remove anything outside that might paint a target on our house. The blue line flag is taken down, bumper stickers are removed, apparel is put away.

We bite our nails, we try to occupy our minds, we commiserate with other spouses, we deal with waves of anxiety and even fear that threatens to break us down to nothing but a mess of tears. All because this country is full of hate and hellfire that our officers have to battle every day.

And then, what about the children?

I know. Right now, I am not allowed to be concerned for police families. I am not allowed to share my opinion without backlash. And GOD FORBID! I bring up the fact that blue families are suffering at the hands of the Black Lives Matter movement. But here I am.

I looked at my 7-year old tonight, and I wondered what he would be thinking if he knew what was really going on right now. I looked at my 3-year old and was thankful that he was oblivious to all of it. As I sit here, my husband is working, having been involved in 5 days of protests in a row. Now, thankfully, where he works it has been peaceful with very little violence and looting.

But I can’t say the same for thousands of families in cities like Minneapolis, New York City, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and others. I can’t imagine what those families are going through and how they are addressing the needs of their children.

Murdered officer’s grave desecrated before headstone even placed

I can’t help but wonder, maybe Coronavirus driving our kids into temporary homeschool was a blessing in disguise. Maybe it is for the best that our children are not at school while this hatefulness is spreading.

Maybe it is protecting our children from another kind of virus. We all know how mean kids can be to each other. And we know that hate like this can be felt and absorbed by children.

I shudder to think what it might be like to send my sweet son into that situation. Would he be bullied by children who have learned to hate cops? Should I just instruct him to pretend his dad is something else? A fireman maybe? Or maybe he is simply safer at home.

Its terribly sad that we have to consider this issue. But any police officer or spouse who has children that go out into the world knows that they must.

In a perfect world, we would send our kids to school, beaming and proud to share that their mommy or daddy is a police officer, a hero that saves people who need help. They might bring them for “bring your dad to work day” to share about a career as a police officer.

Not today.

Today, some of us send our children to school, urging them to keep that information to themselves, for fear that someone might target them because of what his mother or father does for a living. How sad is that?

How sad is it that our kids can’t safely shout from the rooftops that they are proud of their parent. How sad is it that we have to be discreet about who we share that information to.

Even I am discreet. I lock down my page and post all my opinions on Facebook. But you won’t find me out in the community with blue line apparel, bumper stickers, and my obvious pride about what my husband does. And it breaks my heart.

And what if our sons and daughters say, “I want to be a police officer when I grow up.” Maybe that used to be something that would make us beam with pride. Today, for many of us, this would strike fear in our hearts when we think of our precious children being on the front lines of this hatred and violence.

Will it ever be like that again? Right now, it seems like there is no end in sight. The nature of police work was always dangerous. There were always people who wanted to harm police officers. While police officers were working am inherently dangerous job, the supporters still outnumbered the opponents.

But we are in a different time. Whether or not proponents outnumber opponents is uncertain these days. The world is anything but safe for our families. It doesn’t matter that, probably, all of us denounce what that officer did. Our families have been swept up in the violence and the hatred. And it is completely terrifying.

So, what do we do for our children?

I think that honesty, tempered with sensitivity is always the best policy. Letting them think we live in a land of
sunshine and rainbows does a disservice to them. That doesn’t mean we need to give them all the gory details. But helping them understand that, there is good and evil and where mommy or daddy stands will help them sort out the reality.

This will look different with respect to children and teenagers, of course. For my child, I feel like it’s appropriate to wait until questions are asked. Yes, there are people who don’t like police officers. Yes, daddy’s job is dangerous, but he is very good at it and he knows how to stay safe.

Yes, it is scary right now, but daddy is doing everything he can to keep us safe. Yes, sometimes daddy does have to fight bad guys, but we know that daddy knows how to do his job so he can come home safe every day. And yes, mommy is a little scared right now because it’s dangerous and some people are very mean. But I trust that daddy knows what he is doing.

It would also be important to address his fears and help him understand he is safe. Then I would make sure he had healthy coping strategies, just like I need for myself.

I think that older kids need a little less sensitivity and a little more straightforward explanation. Teenagers are more involved in social media, have a social circle of people who have their opinions, and are more influenced by the world around them. They experience the world in an unforgiving way. So, it is our job as parents to be honest with them and help them sort it out.

That being said, if I had a teenager I might sit him down and hear his thoughts on what is going on. I would address the uncertainty that is sure to be present. What is your interpretation of what is happening in the world? What do you need more information on? What are your friends saying? How does it make you feel?

I would let him know that his feelings are correct, no matter if it’s fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, confusion, or sadness. I may talk it over with him and discuss both sides of the equation. This group is angry because of this, and this group is angry because of that. I would probably address anything that I help him make sure he has all the information. Not just my side, and not just their side. I want him to make an informed opinion.

This would be a good discussion to have with his father, as well, who can give a better view of law enforcement policy and procedure, how law enforcement views the events, and what the other side is protesting for. Then I would stand aside to let my son make his own judgement.

I would add to this a discussion about making good decisions to stay safe, and explain why being discreet and selective in who you share with is ideal here. It will probably also be necessary to address any anxiety and fear that he has.

Just like with my younger child, I will help him feel safe by reminding him how good his father is at his job, how well-trained he is, and how he always keeps his own safety in mind so that he can come home to his family.

It is so, terribly sad that this is part of our lives. But it is. And, realistically, I think it always will be. I think that the law enforcement community will experience its ups and downs. But I think we are in uncharted territory. Protests and riots are not new, but actual movement toward defunding and disbanding police departments is. It is more important than ever to safeguard our families in every way we can.

To my readers:

I am so sorry you are going through this. I know you’re anxious. I know you’re angry. I know this is so disheartening and you just want it all to go back to “normal.” I do too.  Like I said in my last article. Now is the time to come together. You’re not alone in how you feel.

There are hundreds of thousands of us that are dealing with the same emotional devastation. Lean on each other. Check in with that spouse that is quiet and reserved.

If you’re that spouse, reach out to those that aren’t. You need each other now. We all have emotions that need to be addressed but we can’t rely on our husbands for that right now.

Make good decisions, stay safe, and look out for each other.


June 21, 2020 Faith & Family, Featured, Must Reads, Police Wives
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Guest post by Dr. Jessica Burke, PhD, from her blog Thoughts from Dr. Burke