How to Select A Guardian for Your Children
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Becoming a parent means being responsible for the care and well-being of your child for at least 18 years. But what if the unexpected happens? Who's going to take care of your child(ren) if both parents are no longer around?
I remember the discussions my kids' dad and I had when preparing our first wills many years ago.
It's natural for each parent to want the child to go with “their” family and it took some time to come to an agreement. Here is a list of criteria that can help you in this decision.
Values and Beliefs
Religious upbringing is an important consideration. Most likely, you want your child brought up by someone with the same religious background. Consider if the prospective guardian's level of involvement in spiritual activities is something you would want for your child.
What values and characteristics are important to you? Make a list of qualities you would want your children to have and learn. Use this list to screen potential caretakers.
Do you want your children to grow up where you live now? If this is important it will definitely narrow the list of candidates for many people.
For me, this would be not a high priority, but then I spent my childhood moving from one military base to another.
Do your prospective guardians have children already? If yes, are the ages compatible with your child's?
If you have multiple children, maybe it would be better to select a couple that don't have any, especially if keeping the children together is important (which I think it should be).
I don't mean can the guardian run a marathon, but rather can they handle raising children.
Your parents or grandparents might make wonderful caregivers but are they physically up to the demands of small children?
We're in good health and can be quite tired after a weekend with our 2-year-old grandson.
Is the guardian financially able to take on additional family members? Even with insurance and social security payments, it may not be enough to cover the cost of your children to their family.
Last, is the person emotionally fit to take on the job of guardian? You chose to take on the responsibility of parenting but it would be thrust upon the guardian. Are they strong enough for all the challenges of child-rearing?
I put this last but it is maybe the most important criteria. Who has a strong relationship already with your child or children?
It would definitely be easier on the child to live with someone who they already know and love.
Once you've made a decision, talk to the person and make sure they're willing and able to take on the role. I would share the decision with close family members so they know your wishes.
Thinking about the worst things that can happen in life is not fun.
Knowing your child is taken care of no matter what makes it worth the work! What is your experience in selecting a guardian?
A friend of mine had a baby a few months back and she and her husband are updating their will trying to determine a guardian for their son. They’ve come to a road block; they can’t decide who would be the best guardian. I can definitely see how this decision is really difficult. Thanks for clarifying some important points.
It’s really hard and I hope your friends keep discussing it to come up with a solution.
We used all of these points when picking a guardian for our daughter. It came down to selecting between my two sisters, which was difficult enough, but in the end we wound up going with my sister who is more financially responsible and has values that are a little closer to ours. Since she’s young (23) we had a long talk with her to make sure it was OK with her to take on that kind of responsibility.
It took us about 4 years to make our final choice. Probably a little too long but this was a decision we took extremely seriously and we didn’t want to leave any stone unturned.
Jana, it is tough which is why it was so hard for us too. I’m glad you were able to make the decision and discuss it with your selectee.
My husband and I continue to struggle with this, especially as we have no siblings that are options for taking our three kids. There is just no good solution.