While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On children who are anxious about being home alone: Children have different personalities, some are ready to take on responsibility at an early age, and some are not. The (Alexandria) Police Department frequently gets questions about what age children can be left home alone and for how long. We always say, “It depends on your child.” There are general age guidelines, but a well-prepared 10-year-old could be fine on their own while an anxious 13-year-old may need a lot of supervision.
Parents could also consider playing a “what if” game with their children on a regular basis as they go through normal, everyday moments that don’t induce stress. “We are at the store – what if you couldn’t find me anywhere, what would you do?” “What if Grandpa started feeling sick and there wasn’t an adult around, what are some options?”
The main thing we tell parents is that their child needs to have a plan of how to handle events while they are home alone. These types of everyday conversations and “planning” can lead to a more well-prepared and confident child, one who feels prepared to make the right decision if something goes wrong, or at least knows her options.
Crystal L. Nosal, Commander/Senior Public Safety Information Officer, Alexandria (Va.) Police Department
On youthful, pre-deployment marriages:
In late 1965, instead of allowing myself to be drafted, I enlisted in the Navy. At about the same time, I met my future spouse at a Christmas party. It was a wild and crazy few months before I had to report to boot camp. I returned in the summer, we got engaged and married in December of 1966. I received orders to Vietnam.
Over the years and decades that followed we had children, my spouse finished college, I changed jobs, we moved a lot, there was debt, I had an affair, I struggled with bouts of depression, I beat cancer and our parents passed on. Now there is retirement. Today we live in an apartment near our children on Social Security and small pensions. We do very little. I frequently ponder what would have happened had we planned better, maybe agreed to reacquaint after my discharge. I think we both deprived ourselves of the growth and experience young adults need, then and now.
My advice to young couples in our position would be NOT to marry. It will not provide the hoped-for connection to home. They should focus on a career, college, friends and family, and on fulfilling any military duty to the maximum, free to select duty stations and schools without the considerations a marriage would require. Meanwhile, they can still love each other and plan for the future.