Legacies Are Built at Home, Not at Work

Chad Bruckner talks about the impact of the career and the affect it can have on children.


As a law enforcement officer or spouse, you know that trauma has the potential to impact you as a parent. When raising a child in this lifestyle you are aware that they will be impacted as well. However, when children are impacted, they can’t always communicate or understand what’s going on. Situations that may not impact us as adults with adult brains can impact children in greater ways or ways that we might not be aware of. They go to school and hear hate, or they’re bullied because their parent is an officer, or maybe their friend pulls up a YouTube video of their father’s officer-involved shooting. When they are home, they don’t understand why their officer parent doesn’t engage with them or want to see their new dance moves that they learned. The non-sworn parent may be cranky or distant, worried, or anxious. Kids are impacted and our goal is to make sure we see it, so the trauma that they may be enduring simply for being kids in this lifestyle doesn’t go on to impact them as adults or impact the next generation.

Today, Chad Bruckner talks about his mission to help officers and law enforcement families understand how this lifestyle is impacting families and their children.

The impact of the career on parenting

“A reminder for us all, as we continue to make an impact …,  it’s critical to establish boundaries and protect our family. We can do so much good work for the world, but if we go home a mess, what does that look like in our lives?”

What boundaries are you setting to protect your most precious commodity?

Why and how does the lifestyle impact parenting?

Police culture

It is a common notion in the law enforcement community for all members to be prepared to sacrifice family time for their career. That’s what the job requires. Officers can bring home unhealthy cultural messages and toxic behaviors that sometimes come with the career.  These can be unique to law enforcement and families might not otherwise experience them if they didn’t serve in police culture.

Moral injury

Moral injury occurs when you are constantly and routinely in environments where you’re being asked to do things or see things that go against your personal values. It might not be unethical, immoral, or illegal. An example of this can be having to triage a situation, leaving others behind where to care for someone that has a different level of survival.  A moral injury may occur when deciding to follow a shooter and needing to ignore the cries of others needing rescuing.


Whether it be a fatal car accident, death investigation, or sexual abuse of a child, the things officers see on the job are not normal. This can spill over and impact the relationship and attachment officers have with their children. If you are the lead officer on a sexual abuse case of a 2-year-old and you have a 2-year-old at home, you may not want to be involved in bath time or diaper changing. Those two very normal parenting tasks can be triggers from something that was witnessed in the sexual abuse case and create a sense of detachment in your parenting style.


When officers come home from their shift, they don’t have the emotional bandwidth to interact with their children. Coming down from the hypervigilance cycle takes time and often, kids are too excited to be patient. Simply saying “I’m proud of you for getting 100% on your test” after being told so by your child, is a hard task and doesn’t happen. If this type of disconnect happens their entire life, they will need so much attention and validation as an adult to feel successful. If you just connected and lived in the moment a little more, there wouldn’t be a need for validation for every task your child does in their adult life. Instead, they would be able to add value to others just as they experienced in childhood.

How to get back on track and connect with children

Self-awareness and your level of commitment to making a change is key. Without those two components, a successful, long-term change cannot occur. Ask yourself how you want to show up for your children and get back on the right track. Once you are ready, start looking for resources and envision where you want to be in life with the connection you have with your child/ren. This could be anything from breathing techniques, to seeking out therapy, to getting coaching as an officer on family connections.

Acknowledge the impact of secondary trauma

Have conversations with your children about how the job is affecting them. This stops families and children from making up narratives and creating situations that do not exist! When our brains do not have the facts, it creates them for us. It could be making sense of not acknowledging your child’s perfect test score to having them see new reports of ambushes on cops without knowing you are safe. Both situations cause secondary trauma and we must communicate about what is really happening. Just because you’re sharing information about the career does not mean you are overexposing your children! Appropriately frame things for their age so they are part of this journey with you and it’s not as scary.

How spouses can help mitigate the secondary trauma on children

Take your knowledge of the spillover from the job and help navigate your children through uncertain situations and feelings.

Be more compassionate, empathetic, and understanding of what is going on. Find ways to be more curious about your officer’s behavior towards your children and remind yourself of who they were when you married them.

Change occurs when generational trauma, culture, and moral injury are challenged, torn down, and built back up. We have to have the self-awareness to constantly work on our emotional wellness and recognize the impact of the job on our families, especially children. This awareness starts a ripple effect to make changes in our families, our culture, and our children. “Legacies are built at home, not at work.”

To connect with Chad visit, LinkedIn: Chad Michael Bruckner

Podcast: Breaking Badge Show

Website: www.motivate-change.com 

Chad has a book coming out speaking about courageous cultures and ways that officers can enrich the lives of the people they are serving.

Chad is married with three children and from Philadelphia PA where he grew up in a very service-oriented family. He enlisted in the Army at 17 and served eight years before he would lead several combat missions inspiring others and achieving inspirational things. After the military, he went into law enforcement where he served 13 years and served multiple roles including patrol officer and leader, detective, and undercover officer. Currently, Chad is an entrepreneur who looks at mentoring and coaching other first responders and veterans in a positive way.


Legacies Are Built at Home, Not at Work

Chad Bruckner talks about the impact of the career and the affect it can have on children.