Selecting a name for your precious bundle of joy can be tricky, but sometimes the hardest decision of all is who to choose as godparents (if you decide to have them). Whether you are after a spiritual guide or simply a role model for your child, there are a number of important things to consider before you decide.
What it means to be a godparent
Traditionally, the role of a godparent was a religious one – hence the title. Through an official baptism ceremony, parents would assign two faith-abiding adults (of the same religion) to be the lifelong religious guides for their baby, to help provide a greater understanding and knowledge of God.
However, these days many parents are removing the religious element and choosing godparents simply because they want their child to have good adult role models in their life, or as part of a non-religious baby naming ceremony. It’s a popular modern notion and in fact, many people who aren’t religious at all and don’t baptise their babies still decide to assign godparents.
They are NOT guardians
There is a very common misconception that the role of a godparent is to look after the child in the event something happens to their parents. However, unless your will states that the godparents will also be the guardians of your child if you die or are incapable of caring for them, they will not legally be allowed to care for them.
By choosing godparents (whether there’s a baptism or not), the only roles they will play in your child’s life are either religious and/or being a positive influence or presence.
When godparents are required
For those who are religious, baptisms are usually expected to take place and godparents need to be assigned. If you want your child to go to a religion based school they will usually ask for proof of baptism – as is often the case with Catholic schools. Which is why many who don’t practice a particular faith but want to send their children to a religious school – often for affordability, moral teaching, academic results, proximity or cultural reasons – will need to get them christened and select godparents.
The more the merrier
Some children have one set of godparents while others have only one godmother or a godfather – the number is up to you. A more recent trend is to have multiple combinations of godparents as more parents are finding it too hard to choose only one set, or they might wish their child to have godparents from their home country in addition to where they live.
Tips for choosing the godparents
Okay, so you’ve decided you want your child to have godparents which means you want two specific people to be a constant presence and influence in their life. Kind of a big deal right? To be asked really is a privilege, and should mean more than sending a card and $10 note in the mail each birthday and Christmas. So how do you choose who to pick for the job?
Here are four tips to get you thinking:
1. Choose someone who will stick around
Choosing your brother’s girlfriend of two weeks is not a good choice for a godmother because who knows if she’ll still be around in years to come? For this reason, family members are often a good choice because it’s pretty hard to disconnect from family. Likewise, friends who are flighty or prone to disappearing are not good options for godparents either. You want these people to always be accessible to your child, open for conversations and happy to spend extra time with them.
2. Make sure they’re a positive influence
The dodgy uncle with the gambling addiction and penchant for hookers is probably not going to work out well, if this who you want as a role model for your child. Think about your candidates carefully, do you consider them a good, kind person? Do you respect them? Would they be a positive influence on your child? Often it’s nice to also think about what they could bring to your child’s life that you might be lacking – e.g. musical interests and abilities, intellectual wisdom or worldly cultural experience.
3. Don’t choose for the wrong reasons
Selecting godparents can become political at times, with best friends or in-laws often expecting to be the ones standing up there with you at the church. But this is a very personal and important decision, so don’t feel pressured into choosing someone just because you think they might get upset. A godparent is for life, people will eventually get over not being asked.
4. Be clear with expectations
Often godparents are chosen and they have no idea of what is expected of them, so it’s a good idea to be clear from the start about what you’re anticipating they will be, or do, for your child. Sometimes people may also feel daunted about being chosen and may refuse to accept the role. Being clear about your expectations can help alleviate any concerns they may have, but remember – they do have the right to politely decline the godparent offer. If this happens, try not to get too upset and respect their decision. It is, after all, an important one for your child!