Family is a big word for Band of Blue. In fact, it’s one of our three core values: family, support, and courage. We recognize family as two-fold. There’s our law enforcement family—our brothers and sisters in blue—and our loved ones who we say goodbye to every day when we head out to start our shift.
Unfortunately, due to long hours and irregular schedules, it’s our family at home who we’re constantly being pulled away from. In this article, we explore the benefits of family time and how you can balance being a police officer as well as who you need to be at home.
Benefits of Family Time
Family time is always quality time. Whether you’re able to enjoy a whole weekend away or moments throughout the week, it’s one of the best things we can do for ourselves—and our loved ones. Here are five major benefits of family time:
- Improves mental wellbeing. Being present is a privilege, one not always easily afforded to police officers. Spending time with our loved ones—especially face-to-face communication, as opposed to digital—significantly reduces the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. Being physically present with our families strengthens our bonds and creates an unbreakable emotional support network for when we need it most.
- Boosts self-confidence. No matter what is going on at work or in the world, knowing that your family loves you and has your six is invaluable. When we know we have the unconditional support of our loved ones, we are confident in our abilities to handle whatever the job throws at us.
- Reduces stress. Having someone you can trust to talk to is critical for developing healthy coping mechanisms. Talking through your problems helps you work through them in real-time, and hopefully, you can return the favor and be there for when a loved one needs to solve problems of their own.
- Improves physical health. While mental wellness directly correlates to physical health, family time can help improve your health in a number of other ways. For example, families who eat home-cooked meals together tend to have a better diet than those who don’t. And you can also get fresh air and exercise by engaging in healthy activities, such as taking walks together, swimming, or going to the park.
- Lengthens lifespan. The combined physical and mental benefits of family time result in an estimated 50% longer life expectancy. People with strong social networks live longer, more fulfilled lives than those who do not have healthy relationships.
Establish Ground Rules: How to Get More Family Time
Increasing quality time spent with your family won’t happen overnight. And certainly not without effort on everyone’s part. You will all have to be diligent, open-minded, and hold one another accountable. The first thing you will need to do is to establish ground rules. While not everyone’s lifestyle and schedule will allow for all of these suggestions, hopefully you will find inspiration to create ones that will work for your family.
- No Phone Zone. This rule applies to everyone and is especially important at the dinner table. Police officers often feel handcuffed to their devices, and for good reason: when duty calls, you have to go in. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean your phone needs to be next to the butter dish. Turn the ringer up and leave it in the other room, or if your watch syncs to your phone, you can see the alerts and determine which, if any, require an immediate response.
- Weekly family outings. No matter how busy your collective schedules are, you can make time for at least one family activity a week if you put your minds to it. While you may not have the bandwidth for an entire evening at the movies or the museum every week, you can find time to spend an hour at the library, or go out for ice cream, or even go grocery shopping together. Now that’s taking care of business and having fun.
- Cook dinner together. While not necessarily a daily endeavor, cooking dinner together even just once a week can be fun, encourage you to try new recipes, and take the load off the person who usually makes the meals.
- Mark your calendar. The funny thing about days is that they turn into weeks, which turn into months, and finally a year has gone by and your family has been so wrapped up in their routine that you didn’t do anything special together. Planning events in advance not only gives everyone something to look forward to, but may even give you time to think of more creative activities.
- Pray before bedtime. It’s bigger than the idea that “the family that prays together stays together.” Praying with your children before bed only takes a few moments, but can have a huge impact. By explaining the purpose behind prayer, children learn the importance of faith as the foundation for family. Further, churches can be a valuable resource and support system for families.
Band with Us
Band of Blue is a non-profit organization headquartered in southeast Wisconsin. While we call the Midwest home, we are a nationwide charity that helps families of fallen police officers. We band together to support families across the nation because we believe we are one big family of law enforcement professionals and their loved ones.
Band with us when you join our Band of Blue Facebook group, a community of police officers and their supporters.