Children hear everything right?
They pick up even the smallest things we say. We shape how they see the world and how they see and treat others. So it goes that the way we introduce a member of our community such as law enforcement is a pretty big deal.
So what can we tell our children?
Children should have an understanding of what police officers actually do and the role they play in our lives. Yes they do write tickets, but it’s not all they do and that is a great time to talk about laws. Was a person speeding? Why can’t we drive fast on this road? Yes they ‘take away the bad guys’ but since you aren’t bad you don’t need to worry.
That leads to the threat. The ‘keep it up and the police will take you away’ threat. This is a tough one because it’s common for parents to use law enforcement as a threat or last resort to get their children to behave. Explain that, if a crime is being committed, then- yes, police can show up.
There are many ways to explore this topic with children. I’ve rounded up some things that we can all do with our families locally:
-Read a book!
For smaller children I recommend Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Police Station
-San Diego takes part in the National Night Out Against Crime.
This happens on the first Tuesday in August. We attended two of the events last year in our neighborhood. The kiddos got to explore police cars and fire trucks and met local officers.
-Check for local meet and greet opportunities at bookstores and libraries.
The Encinitas Barnes and Noble has a sheriff deputy come read a book for children on the last Wednesday of each month.
-Have coffee with a Cop
Follow Coffee with a Cop on Facebook for information on when the next local meet up will be. They bring police officers together with anyone in their community to chat over a cup of coffee.
-Often you can find your local department at street fairs or other large gatherings.
Last year Oceanside Harbor Days showcased local law enforcement and had a K9 demonstration.
-Say thank you.
It can be as simple as saying hi and thanks or having the kids deliver a picture they colored. You can also do the the candy bag idea. Not sure what that is? It’s a cute idea where you buy various candies that have a short phrase connected to law enforcement work. Have your children help fill the bags, write a thank you note, and drop it off at a nearby station.
I asked the wife of a local police officer if there was anything she’d like me to add. When she suggested that I include one final thing, her words struck me. She said to not forget that law enforcement officers are human. They are mothers and fathers. They are our neighbors and friends. We can do everything I mentioned, but if we leave this out then we are falling short. Police are extraordinary because they run towards danger and they put themselves at risk to protect others, but they are human.