Critter Corner: Choosing a Guardian for Our Children

Dear Hayek,

We have young children and are considering doing a Child Protection Plan for each of them. We know we need to name guardians for our children, should we die or become incapacitated. The problem is that I cannot think of anyone who would be right to assume the role. Our parents on both sides are sick or caring for someone who is sick, and our sisters have their own families with young children. And we really want to choose a married couple if possible. What criteria do you suggest we use in making the decision? Thanks for your help!

Gar Diene

Dear Gar,

Sometimes it can be challenging to choose the right people to care for your children. Hopefully, the situation will never arise, but just in case, it is wise to select trustworthy family or friends and, of course, to plan in advance. Here are some important things that you should consider when deciding who to name as the guardians of your children:

1. Where the guardians live: In all likelihood, the guardians you choose will not move to be with your children. The children will likely move in with the guardians if they have room and, if not, then the guardians will likely buy a larger house in their current location to accommodate their family and yours. So, think about where the person/people you want to name as guardians live and if you’re OK with your children being raised there.

2. The person’s religious, political, and moral beliefs: Think about your own religious, political and moral beliefs and then think about what you know about the other persons. If you don’t know much, then ask them. Someone who follows 70%-80% of your beliefs is certainly a better choice than someone who only follows 30%-40%, if this is something that is important to you.

3. The person’s parenting skills: If the potential guardians are already parents, then consider their parenting skills. Are the potential guardians hands-on with raising their own children or do they rely on outside help? What are their views on child discipline, education, sports, and school activities? Or, if the potential guardians aren’t already parents, then consider what you know about how they were raised since this will likely influence how they will act as guardians.

4. The age of the potential guardians: Older guardians may be in a better position financially and have more time to be hands-on with raising your children, but they may be out of touch with current trends in education and parenting and what kids today want and like. Older guardians may become ill or die themselves or have to take care of a sick spouse before the children become adults. With younger guardians, they may be too involved in getting their own career and family in order to worry about raising your children.

5. The potential guardian’s family situation: Is the potential guardian married with minor children, married with adult children, a single parent, married without children, or single without children? If married, then how stable is the marriage? If single, then is there a potential spouse or significant other on the scene? If the potential guardian doesn’t have any children, then is there the possibility of children in the future? If the potential guardians already have children, then how many do they have and what are their ages in comparison to your children? Considering the potential guardian’s family situation is important to understanding how this might influence the upbringing of your children.

6. The potential guardian’s financial situation: Do you know if the potential guardians are good with managing money and have stable jobs? Do you think that the potential guardians would have to quit their job or take on a second job to raise your children? Considering the potential guardians’ financial situation is important to understanding how this can and will influence the upbringing of your children.

7. Last, but certainly not least. . . does the person want to serve? If you don’t take the time to ask the potential guardians if they’ll be willing to act as your children’s guardians, then you may be setting your children and family up for a court battle if the couple you’ve chosen doesn’t want to or simply can’t serve. This is not the time to be shy — your children’s lives are at stake, so you need to be sure your potential guardians are able and willing to take on this vital role.

And if you’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings, don’t. What’s best for your children is on the line, so your choice of their guardian needs to be based on what’s best for your children, not what will make your family or friends happy.

Hope this is helpful,

Hayek

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