Guardian Angels: Designating Parental A Parental Proxy For Your Children
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
Parents are generally always worried about the well-being of their children, constantly concerned about keeping them “innocent” and out of harms way. But, what most moms and dads fail to think about is the possibility of something happening to them, the primary providers and protectors. Should your children remain orphans, who will take care of them in your place?
While making the decision may force you to think about and deal with unpleasant thoughts and circumstances you’d rather not think about, and put perhaps undue stress on you and your spouse with regard to coming to an agreement on suitable guardian, you may just want to consider the alternatives.
Much like a rock and roll classic blatantly states: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice”. Foregoing your right to assign a legal guardian means giving that authority to the government and the courts. In such circumstances this very personal decision is turned over to the judicial system, and a judge is assigned the task of deciding “for you”.
Not making the choice while you have the chance means living with knowing that the courts may “award” your child that YOU may not be to happy about and may very well NOT approve of. Furthermore, there’s always the possibility that no one capable will be able or willing to take care of your child in case of emergency, and that means they will either be left totally unattended or placed in foster care. On the other hand, an abundance of relatives vying for the coveted position of caretaker could result in a bevy of relatives “duking it out” in court, and neither is an acceptable or healthy situation or experience for children, especially young children and young teens and adolescents.
So, while you may not be in any hurry to confront this situation and issue, avoiding it won’t make the reality disappear or change “fate”. Your best option is to address it, the sooner the better, get it over with and move forward with your lives and enjoying your family.
The Process In Progress:
Defining and Identifying The Ideal Guardian:
While you may joke that it’s likely you (and your spouse) are “winging it” when it comes to “knowing” how to raise your kids, once you sit down and put parental requirements down on paper, you’ll more than likely realize that YOU are exactly who you’d pick to raise and care for your child/children.
Finding a replacement for yourselves won’t be easy. Experts suggest starting with listing the essential traits you’d want a parent to have, and the qualities that matter most to your for your children. Envision your child/children as adults. What do you hope and want them to be like, what morals and values do you want them to espouse and what achievements would you like them to strive for and accomplish. Now, all you have to discern is which family member or friend best fits the description that will nurture them in a manner that will allow them to grow into this type of human being.
According to authorities, most couples will learn a lot about themselves and each other during this process. In fact, many will disagree on several key issues, and may have to come up with a more “basic” list of imperative criteria such as honesty, compassion, generosity, kindness, etc. Then identify qualified candidates and “rate” them in each. Other areas to consider include:
· A guardian’s physical and mental ability to care for your child and their ability to adopt, adhere to, and implement some of your rules in rearing your offspring into adulthood
· Proximity to or from your child’s friends, other family, school, etc., and the ramifications of relocation.
· Security of relationship and finances.
· Other offspring. Are potential sibling close enough to your child’s/children’s age for companionship and comradery. Does the couple even like or want children, and would the added responsibility be too taxing.
Be open-minded and considerate:
Try to remember this is NOT a battle or the sexes or the families. Remember, each partner will most likely have a soft spot in his or her heart for their respective friends and family member…but your significant other may not see things quite the same way.
According to experts our desire to “re-live’ our own childhoods or live vicariously through our children () us with the inclination to put them in the care of those who gave us such wonderful experiences and memories.
They emphasize that choosing a child’s guardian should have less to do with emotion and more to do with “logic”. They also note that it’s also NOT about you, but your child and his/her best interests. Keeping this at the forefront of your mind will prevent you from getting defensive and will help assure that your decision is well thought out rather than “impulsive”.
While many couples may be fortunate enough to have trusting, caring family members who they also like and are confident about, some may be subject to the truth behind the old adage that states: “Familiarity breads contempt”.
Once you begin exploring your options of parental appointees, you may recall some “intimate” details that may have you questioning their suitability, and searching outside the family tree.
Professionals point out that due to differences in “morality” or lifestyle issues, and even personal agendas, parents, siblings, and frequently other family members are simply NOT the most suited selection. Acquired friends with similar interests, morals, agendas and parenting styles are becoming a more common choice. They note that despite not wanting to “offend” you should firstly and fore mostly focus on choosing someone who will not only care for, but also love and nurture your child.
Consent and Back Up Plans:
While you (and your spouse) may finally feel comfortable and confident in your decision, the person or people you’ve chosen may not share your sentiments. True enough they may love and enjoy your kids, but perhaps not on a full time basis.
It may not be anything personal, but keep in mind, that your chosen guardians have the right to refuse. Besides asking their permission to be listed as guardians, you should have a secure “backup plan” just in case.
It’s also imperative to remember that this is a delicate issue and should be approached diplomatically. Experts suggest using tact and finesse when asking, and openly discussing your family situation from finances to insurance, education plans and funds etc. Also allow the intended guardians ample time to think it over. Be understanding of their concerns including time, energy, finances, even age, and don’t be disappointed or upset if they say no. Simply ask someone else whom you included on your list.
Law and Order:
Once you’ve asked and the chosen party has accepted you’ll need to make it official which means putting it in writing. You will need to name the chosen guardian/guardians in a will or trust. Experts also advise securing the help of an attorney, especially if there are specific terms, conditions and instructions, demands, or if your child has special needs. Otherwise you may use a do-it-yourself form or computer program. Get everything signed and witnessed according to your local laws and make sure you account for the following:
· List only one member of the household as your child’s legal guardian, even if your intention is to have both act as surrogate parents. Experts make this suggestion as a precaution for your child/children in case of divorce and to protect them from a potential custody battle.
· Identify an alternative should your first choice be unable to fulfill his/her responsibilities.
· Designate someone other than an ex-spouse as a surrogate guardian. While the law will most likely award the child to the surviving biological parent, you’ll want a back up in case something happens to him/her or he/she is deemed incompetent.
Put It In Writing:
Even if you are specific about your wishes, they most likely won’t hold up in court. According to experts, securing your child’s future means outlining precise details about any and all aspects of their life/lives that are important to you while you are alive and well. They recommend putting it on paper in explicit detail and perhaps discussing it not only with the chosen guardians, but also with others who know you, and even with your children (if they are old enough and mature enough) so, that they can be instrumental in making sure your wishes (for them) are carried out.
Permission To Change Your Mind:
Authorities assert periodically re-examining the people in your life, your relationship with them, the relationship they have with your children and re-evaluating your choice. They also emphasize giving yourself permission to change your mind if you realize that you perhaps didn’t initially make the right choice. Changing your will is relatively simple and costs only a fraction of the original draft.
Honesty Is The Best Policy:
The decision of whether to reveal your personal (family) business is strictly a personal one. Still, in matters such as this, experts suggest making your intentions known while you are (still) around and have the opportunity to explain and clarify your choice.
They suggest defining your decision based on neutral criteria, such as proximity to school, friends, finances, size of household, etc. Again, logic and emotion should be the central focus, as should the best interests of the child/children. While there may be some disagreement or misunderstanding, most will be able to (eventually) understand and will help ensure no one is insulted or gets hurt.
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