Being asked to be a godparent is one of life’s greatest honours – and, as a parent, a pretty important decision. So whether you’re an atheist debating if the title’s for you, or you’ve said yes and are wondering what your ‘duties’ are, here’s everything you need to know about being a godparent in 2017...
You Don’t Need To Be Christian
As its name suggests, traditionally the role of a godparent was to support a child in their journey of faith following a christening. The Catholic Church has a specific set of rules about who can be chosen as godparents; they must be a Roman Catholic and have received Holy Communion. The Church of England prefers godparents to have been baptised in the Church of England, but doesn’t require it.
On the other hand, new parents who aren’t religious can still choose godparents too. Christenings are becoming less common in England, but baby-naming ceremonies are on the rise – people often choose godparents ahead of the naming ceremony and include them in the event. And if you want a name without religious connotations, ‘guideparent’ is a popular choice.
Legal Guardians Are Different
While a godparent is generally a close family friend that helps to support the child emotionally and/or spiritually, a guardian is someone who legally agrees to take care of a child if both parents should die, or become incapable of caring for them, and is often a family member.
The majority of people choose separate godparents and legal guardians, but there’s no reason someone couldn’t hold both responsibilities. Remember, legal steps need to be taken to formalise a guardianship and it’s important to fully discuss the responsibility with whoever you’re asking (this isn’t one to spring on people!).
It Goes Beyond Birthdays & Christmas
Never forgetting Christmas and birthdays is, of course, essential – but being a good godparent is all about creating a special connection. Whether that means writing postcards on holiday, sending an advent calendar at the start of December, or keeping note of big exams in order to send a good luck text, there are myriad ways to show godchildren you care and make them part of your life.
Being There Is Key
If a child doesn’t feel comfortable sharing something with their parents, but needs an adult’s help or advice, a godparent can quite literally be (excuse the pun), a godsend. That’s why it’s so important to build a bond and let them know you’re there for them.
Contacts Are A Plus
The concept of a ‘power godparent’ is nothing new (Queen Victoria had more than 50 godchildren), and with carving out a career in competitive industries growing ever harder, godparents should expect to be called on for their contacts. From getting godchildren an internship, to giving all-important career advice, they can often be somewhat of a mentor. Drew Barrymore’s godfather, Steven Spielberg, famously cast her in his film E.T., and we’re sure Elton John’s four-year-old son, Elijah, will be asking godmother Lady Gaga for even more music lessons as he gets older.
They Can Be Role Models
Modern families are so much more than just the nuclear stereotype. Some same-sex couples and single parents say they deliberately chose a godparent of the opposite sex to ensure their children grow up with both male and female role models in their lives.