How do you pick godparents/guardians for your child(ren)?

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My friends are her friends

I do not have any children yet, but something I have been thinking about lately is how parents decide who would take care of their children if something horrible happens to both of them. How do you ask someone to take care of your children if you pass away, and how do you tell someone you haven’t chosen them? For example, with two sets of grandparents, who do you put in the will as legal guardians if the worst happens?

Great question! Time for another round of SHE SAID/SHE SAID, with your hosts Ariel and Stephanie…


This is a question that completely haunts me and Sean. I mean, some of the reasons are obvious (“OMG, something could happen to us?! What would happen to Jasper?! & etc.), but when we really sit down and try to reason out who we would ask to take care of Jasper if we no longer could, we consistently draw blanks. That’s not entirely true — individually, we each come up with people, but together? We’ve never been able to come to a mutual agreement.

First and foremost, we’re not religious, so for us, a godparent would be the designated guardian in the event that he or she (or they) were necessary. We’ve gone through the grand-parents, and rationalized out who is likely to be the best choice there. Our criteria was pretty straight-forward: we looked at the relationship Jasper has with each grandparent & the grandparent’s spouse, which includes how the grand-parent treats Jasper and who is most likely to raise him in a way that is somewhat similar to how we would. After that, we considered things like the financial situation of each grand-parent, the housing situation, and how stable that grand-parent is.

The tricky part? While we love our parents, we’re not sure if a grandparent would be the best substitute parent in a situation like this. Neither of us were raised with godparents, so we really don’t have a realistic idea of what the non-religious role entails. When I was pregnant Sean had the idea that we create a “Jedi council” of sorts — five or six friends that we really trust and who we think could, collectively, keep Jasper as awesome and happy as possible. This doesn’t really play out in reality, because how do you ensure that these people would all pitch in? Who would Jasper live with? And so on.

There are a few options within our friends, but every time we go down one path, we come up with more reasons why the person or people wouldn’t fulfill our ideas about what a parent is in the context of us and Jasper. And, I think, therein lies the real problem with a situation like this — you have to realize that no one is going to be the parents that you would be, and move past that. If something happened to us, whoever would raise Jasper would have their own parenting philosophies. There’s no way to predict what those would be, and no way for us to have peace of mind that Jasper would be in 100% Sean-and-Stephanie-esque hands.

Clearly, I’m still trying to figure this one out. I look forward to reading responses from other parents!


I love this question, although I’m coming at it from the other side of the spectrum — as an adult who was raised with an actively involved godmother.

My parents selected their best friend, the woman who had introduced them, to be my godmother. She was a consistent presence in my life all through my childhood, and her daughter and I were raised as godsisters … a relationship that roughly translated to cousin-hood. My godmother and godsister were important to me growing up; as an only child who had no blood-related cousins until I was in my teens, the sense of belonging to a larger family was beyond valuable.

When my parents would go out of town, I would usually stay with my godfamily, and I always knew that if anything were to happen to my parents, I would go live with them. It was reassuring. I knew where I would go, and I liked it.

This is all to say: good on you for thinking about this! I think having godfamily is super important — more than just in case of tragedy, but also just as an opportunity to establish a supportive extended family of your choice for your children. At least for me, I loved growing up knowing I had a special “other” family.

When it comes to making the decision, there are several factors:

  • Parenting philosophies (do you generally agree with how children should be raised?)
  • Resources (would they have the resources to take your child/ren if something happened to you?)
  • Existing relationship (do your kids already know and like them? From a child’s perspective, this makes things much less scary.)
  • Their willingness

For that last bullet point, this is key: you don’t just TELL someone you’ve picked them to be godparents. You ASK them if they’re interested. I’m the same opinion about marriage proposals — it shouldn’t be a “popping the question,” it should be a long heartfelt discussion.

For those of you who have chosen godparents for your children, how did you do it? How did you bring up the issue with the friends/family you were considering, and how did you talk to your children about it.

Comments on How do you pick godparents/guardians for your child(ren)?

  1. Please please “don’t just TELL someone you’ve picked them to be godparents. You ASK them if they’re interested”!X100,000
    Derrik and I were informed that we are going to be guardians for someday sister-in-law someday children at last Thanksgiving!
    My only option is to hope they only have a few kids,or never get sick.
    I myself only want one or two children so I’m a little overwhelmed when I think about having to add one or two more kids on top of that. Plus they never talked to us about parenting styles or resources.
    So in conclusion, please for the love of ice cream talk to your guardian candidates!

  2. I’m not Catholic, but my best friend growing up was and I was totally jealous that she had a godmother (I probably saw her in the same light as a fairy-godmother, but that’s neither here nor there). My mother’s best friend often looked after me if my babysitter wasn’t able to and, to me, she was the most fascinating person on the planet. She was Buddhist and taught me about Hindu goddesses and we talked about the wonder of scorpions (without getting too close, of course) so when I was about 10, after my best friend’s godmother had come to visit, I decided that Jean should be my godmother. I asked my mom if it was okay and she agreed and then I called Jean to ask if she would be my godmother. She said yes, of course, and was very touched. When I got married almost a month ago she was there, filling in for my grandparents who have all passed away. I tell you this story to illustrate the point that sometimes kids will pick their own godparent if you don’t. 🙂

    When my husband and I have kids we will probably debate over this forever. None of our friends seem capable of raising them the way we would prefer and if we tried to choose a set of grandparents, well, it would be WWIII. Not only do they not share our values (my parents are very (read: scary) religious and his parents are chaotic to the max so I’m not sure what the solution will be. Maybe I will ask my godmother. lol

  3. When I was 16,my sister and her husband discussed with me their desire that I raise their children should anything happen to them. I immediately accepted although I had concerns about the rest of the family. Both of my parents are still living, albeit divorced from each other, and, at the time, both of my brother-in-law’s parents were still living and together. Not to mention that all of his four sisters are older than me. Plus, Cody, their oldest son, was baptized Catholic with Godparents- my sister’s best friends. So, why, with this plethora of other more logical choices would they pick “the baby sister”?

    This was the response: I would raise their children as they wanted them raised.

    The grandparents on both sides were/are older. They can’t handle three rambunctious boys. They are set in their ways. Which set would get them without offending the others? So, that cancels them out.

    Gerald’s sisters, while older and more experienced, already had families of their own. Large families. Plus, although Gerald loved them, neither he or my sister liked their husbands. The environment wouldn’t have been the same. So, those three are gone.

    Gerald has a near violent relationship with his brother and my sister isn’t real close with ours. So, two more to the “No” pile.

    That left the two youngest daughters; Gerald’s baby sister Ashley and myself. Ashley is older by a few years, had no partner or family at the time, and was raised Mormon(Which my sister’s family happens to be). I was a teenager and definitely not Mormon. We each were in complicated stage in our lives and questioning our own religious and personal beliefs.

    I can never remember what took Ashley out of the running but I also know why they chose me. I was/am obedient. That sounds harsh and weird but kind of true. I would be obedient to the choices they wanted for their children. I would raise them in the Mormon faith; Sunday school, baptism, and mission. I, myself, could never convert but I would do it. It was what they wanted. I would love/treat/focus on the boys as if they were my own. They wouldn’t be the orphans living with me, or the grandkids, or my nephews. They would be/are my children.

    They [bold]are[/bold] my children. I even receive calls when they are behaving exceptionally well or badly. I have helped comfort them, praise them, and punish them. I’ve talked them through fights with their parents and each other. I have talked their parents through fights with them and each other. I always would have anyway.

    I don’t know if Gerald and my sister ever told the other siblings but I know they made the Grandparents aware. I think they just mentioned it matter of fact-ly with the insurance papers; “Risti is our sole beneficiary should anything happen to us.”

    This summer I was lecturing my oldest nephew (like you do) when my mother interrupted. “You shouldn’t talk to him that way. You aren’t his mother.Why do you think you get a say?” I can’t lie. I took major satisfaction in responding “I get him if they die. Anything happens and he’s mine. You’ve got to start the training early.” We all laughed.

    It’s a stressful decision but according to my sister, when you have the right person you know. It didn’t matter who could/would/might be offended because these are her babies and no one is more important than they are. Baby trumps husband, parent, sibling, and friend. Find someone that will raise your babies like you want them raised; who will love them as you love them, and you can’t go wrong.

  4. Very important and intersting topic.

    My husband and I have only recently decided this and thankfully it wasnt as difficult as we expected it to be. Our first baby is due in April and we wanted to make sure our wills were up to date with guardian details before she is born.

    We knew that there was no one around our age (brothers/sisters/friends) that we wanted to raise our children. Partly because we are not close enough to them, partly because they have enough on their plates. We quickly narrowed it down to either my mother or the husbands parents, (my dad doesnt particulary like children).

    Before making any decisions we sat down with both parents and asked their thoughts on the matter, both of them said they would be more than happy to be our childrens guardian if anything happened.

    As soon as we found out we were pregnant we had our life insurances increased so that money would not be an issue for the guardians and we wouldnt need to include finances into our decision.

    We made our decision with the intention that it will be reviewed and updated in 4-5 years. We ended up chosing my husbands parents because:
    – they have a much smaller family and less grandchildren so could spend a lot more one on one “parent” sort of attention to our child
    – they raised their sons “outdoorsy” with a huge focus on family trips away and family outings
    – they would raise our child closest to how we would raise them ourselves (tho a lot more spoiled!).

    However, once our children are school aged we will most likely have my mum as guardian because:
    – the children wouldnt have to change schools or make new friends
    – she would have spent the most time with them as she lives down the street and takes care of them one day a week as it is
    – It would be the least amount of adjustment for them as they would still spend holidays, trips etc with husbands parents as they are used to.

    Thankfully my parents and his parents get on very well and we’re 100% confident that raising our kids would be a joint effort between them. There would be no nastyness and we’ve made it clear to both of them that we want them both to be equal presence no matter who is the official guardian.

    I feel so much better knowing that if anything ever happened to us, this has all been sorted out and everyone is on the same page. Also our will reflects that if our first choice is unable or unwilling for any reason who our second choice is.

  5. I am that elusive wills and trust attorney that has yet to participate in this thread. I practice in Louisville Kentucky.

    Terminology, as Ariel pointed out, is different in the common usage, AND is different state by state. There are general principals of law though. I’ll write something up (already in works with Stephanie) and hope everyone finds it helpful. The common thread of consult an attorney – I would add :LOCAL: attorney. Hopefully you find one as offbeat and yet IN SYNC with you.

    The other aspect(s) I would add, is make the decision early; and yes, form it in a question to the person/people you hope to support. But the discussion ought not stop once you get someone willing to step up and play that significant role as godparent or potential parent-figure as guardian. You may find this difficult because you do not know your own parenting style while preparing for a child or during infancy, let alone identify who in your life will raise your child(ren) in the same way. In fact, the only guaranty I might offer is that your ideas on parenting will change over time. That said, choose godparent (for support/mentoring in faith), guardian (for raising in your stead if you get hit by a meteor), trustee (for handling financials), executor (for settling your estate)… CAREFULLY. Godparents aren’t something you usually change, however, your will ought to be revisited and updated regularly, but especially when big events have happened. Just because you picked that great neighbour when you kid was 2 doesn’t mean they’ll be great when that kid is a teen.

    IF you are not married, then it becomes even more important to have your choices set up because who inherits what according to the statutes of your state of residence that determine who gets what say in closing your affairs may not be what you would choose. Each plays a different role in your child’s life, and EACH will have their own opinions and agenda.

    I am working on the feedback and suggestions now, but please keep in mind, I’m 37 weeks pregnant and nesting like mad to fit my family of four in 950 sq ft. But that is off topic, for another discussion entirely!

  6. In a few months time I will become a mother for the first time. My husband and I made the “guardian decision” very early. (I’m a planner if nothing else. 🙂 ) For us it was one more way of taking care of our little one’s future. In making this oh-so-difficult decision we considered the following.

    – The person/couples stability financially, mentally, and physically

    – The relationship of the couple (in our case.) We agreed that our children learn to love by how they see their parents love and wanted the guardian(s) to be great role models here.

    – People who were like minded and might be able to give our kids a little bit of us in their own ways.

    – We also wanted someone who would always want to be involved in our little one’s life regardless of their “status” as guardians/godparents.

    My husband and I were very lucky to have the couple we chose accept this most precious and daunting undertaking.

    To those out there who still wrestle with this decision I wish you good luck, rationality, and peace.


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