It’s something no parent wants to think about, but it’s imperative that everyone takes the time to do. Where will your children end up in case something were to happen to you?
When my husband and I recently took a weekend getaway together without the kids, this was a thought that popped into my head the night before we left. What would happen if we never returned from this trip? I know it’s a somber thought, but it needed to be talked about.
I didn’t want my family to battle over who would take the kids because we had nothing in place for this situation. I wouldn’t want my children to be passed around between family members. I didn’t want to put the burden on someone who couldn’t handle it and I wanted to be sure they were cared for by family members with other children their age.
How to Choose a Guardian For Your Child
Because guardianship is something that is a little painful to contemplate, many people avoid it for too long, hoping that the question will just go away. But if you do not face this difficult subject, then, in the case of an accident, the courts will decide with whom your children are raised, rather than you.
To avoid that eventuality, you’ll want to sit down and seriously contemplate guardianship. Something that can help you look at this process in an objective manner is a clear set of action steps and strategies that will make the process easier to look at and follow through with.
There are two parts of guardianship to think about, someone who will take care of the finances surrounding your child or children, known as the guardian of the estate, and the guardian of the person, who will take care of physical needs. When you consider this there are ways to make the process easier on you.
Start with a list of names:
When making a list of candidates, start with close family and move outward to friends. While you may feel obligated to pick immediate relatives for guardianship, it’s important to make a more comprehensive list including friends who you might think would be suitable for the responsibility.
Think of everyone that you would possibly consider and then make a spreadsheet so you can list pros and cons, or even create a point system that will inform your decision.
Consider what’s important to you:
There are many factors that will go into this difficult decision and it may help to lay those factors out in a logical way. That way you can more easily assess how your family and friends rank when it comes to certain aspects of life you deem imperative for the well-being of your child or children.
Some of these criteria might be:
Common Values: How do each of the people on the list rank when it comes to how closely they agree with your value system. Do they have similar political or religious beliefs? Think about the ideologies that are most important to you. Are their moral codes, like approaches to philanthropy or how they treat others, similar to how you would bring up your children?
Parenting style: Are you stricter or more permissive? Do you value respect and an orderly home, or are you more open and value adventurous spirit? You’ll want to make a few value judgments about your own parenting style before wondering what those that are on your list might be like. If the worst happens, making sure that parenting style is consistent will make for an easier transitional time for your child and the family.
Academic importance: What is your view on education and its’ importance in a child’s life? You’ll want to match your child or children with someone who has a similar view of academics as you do. Is college a must? Are you encouraging elite-level classes? What about other aspects of school like athletics and extracurriculars? How would those on your list stack up when it came to matching your own views on this subject?
Financial Stability: Look seriously at your list and consider how easy or difficult it would be for those represented to take care of your children financially. What is their current situation and are they known to be responsible with their finances? Do they own a home? Have a good job? Keep in mind this person will end up being the beneficiary of any life insurance that you have. Will that change your perception of their financial standing in any way? Most importantly, do you think they have the wherewithal to look after the financial future of your child or children.
Family culture: How stable is the family situation you would potentially send your child or children into? It’s clearly best if you can send children into a family culture similar to your own. Does the person you are contemplating have a history of divorce or broken relationships?
Location: Consider that drastic change in location will create even more difficulty. If you live in an urban area, for example, it might be better to consider someone who also has an urban existence, rather than creating the difficult culture shock of sending your child or children to suddenly live in a rural environment.
Health and age: Is the person young enough and fit enough to be trusted with guardianship? The difficult part here is that you need to think long-term and consider how the person or people you choose will be able to participate in the lives of your child or children in the future.
Obviously you want the absolute best for your child or children in case something terrible were to happen to you but finding the perfect person or couple who checks every box is likely unrealistic. While each of your criteria likely is weighted differently (your values may seem more important than financial stability for example, or perhaps the other way around), setting down names and specific criteria to judge those on your list will help you make your decision in an informed way.
Making the choice
Once you have looked over the list in reference to the factors you have set down, you can make an informed list that ranks your candidates starting with the most ideal. However, it is best to have a few people in mind and not fixate on just one, in case your most desired choice demures and would rather not take on the responsibility.
This is a large thing to ask of someone so make sure to treat the moment with the gravity it deserves. Sit down for a heart to heart, you may want to write a letter in advance that outlines your decision and how much the person means to you.
Definitely have something written down beforehand and do not try to just wing it. Be prepared for taking the time to have a relatively serious conversation that outlines your expectations and responsibilities.
Make it legal
One the person or people you choose has accepted you will want to go to a lawyer and make it official by putting it into your will. If you haven’t yet organized your will, this is a good excuse to get that painful subject out of the way as well.
The choice of a guardian is one of the most important you may every make. Hopefully, you never have to worry about this situation, but the peace of mind you will get after having gone through an admittedly difficult process is very much worth the effort.
. . . . .
Now that we have a legal document in place that states who will care for our children in the event of a tragedy, I feel much better knowing that we had control over this decision and that they will be in good hands.
Need a simple visual way to contemplate this huge decision? Check out this easy to follow flowchart that Haven Life put together on how to choose a guardian for your child.
About the Author:
Sierra Skelly is a content creator for Haven Life who develops helpful and compelling stories. Her passion for digital marketing and creative writing has led her to cover unique topics ranging from business to lifestyle. She calls San Diego, Ca home and enjoys crafting, decorating and traveling in her spare time.