The good godparent guide

12:0AM, Aug 11th 2014

Naomi Cotterill

What makes a good godparent, what are their modern-day duties and how do you choose one for your child?

There's a good chance you may be considering asking someone close to you to play the role of godmother or father to your child. But what exactly does being a godparent really involve?

M&B has dived into the world of tiny white gowns to fill you in on everything you need to know about godparents.

Celebrant Wendy Haynes, author of How to be an Inspiring Godparent, Mentor, Guardian has written a guide to the process and found that today's parents are still keen to celebrate the new addition to their family with a traditional christening or more modern naming ceremony.

The modern godparent

Historically, the role of godparent was interlinked with the Christian faith, with individuals given the responsibility of looking after their godson or goddaughter's spiritual path. While this is still the case in families with religious affiliations, the name is now used more broadly outside of the church, usually to mean an adult who plays a supporting or mentoring role in the life of the child.

"The modern godparent will be someone a child can turn to not only in times of celebration but also in times of crisis, a mentor in whom to confide and possibly a source of advice," says Haynes. As the old saying goes, 'It takes a village to raise a child' and by choosing a godparent or mentor, parents are bringing extra guidance and support into their child's life from an early age.

View gallery: Famous Godparents

Choose wisely

As you can choose the people you'd like to be the godparents of your child, "many people believe that it is safest to elect a relative as they are bound by ties of blood but you might find that someone outside of the family can offer a different perspective," says Haynes. "Things to consider are the person's reliability, their beliefs and whether or not they have the time and desire to be part of the process."

Whether you choose family members or close friends, it is worth taking the time to think about the role you'd like the godparent to play in your child's life.

While godparents rarely have any legal responsibilities, the people that you choose are committing to a lifelong involvement with your family and they need to feel comfortable with this. It's a good idea to sit down with the people you've chosen to chat about your expectations and their understanding of the role. If you're having a christening in a church, check what the minister or priest requires of the godparents, as you may need to discuss these prior to the day.

Playing the role

If you've been asked to be a godparent, you're occupying a special place in your godchild's life. Being a good godparent isn't rocket science, but taking an interest in the role is generally appreciated. "A good godparent is there for the child in a loving and caring way and offers support, friendship and a gentle push in the right direction as they get older," says Haynes.

In days gone by, the chosen adults would have been expected to have consistent involvement in the day-to-day lives of their godson or goddaughter's life, monitoring their spiritual development and ensuring they stay on the straight and narrow.

Expectations have since changed, but regular contact and a general willingness to be involved in the child’s life now the acceptable norm.

"Take your godchild for an outing or take them for an ice cream, simply spending time together works a treat," says Haynes. Becoming a 'third' parent to a godchild can be a wonderfully rewarding, not to mention fun experience. You'll also get first dibs on the delicious cake served after the formalities are finished!

Who would you choose?

We asked the mum's and dad's on the Mother & Baby Facebook page who they chose to have as godparent for their child.

Kat Lucas, 26, from Qld, mum to Taizin-Jay, 6, and Mekhi, 3 told us she chose a family friend. "I've known her for 22 years and she is more like a mum than my real mother. She has eight children of her own but she was always there for me and always will be. She is who I chose and will continue to choose for my future children."

Modern options

These days a christening continues to be a tradition to mark a new baby's beginning of their upbringing in the Christian faith or simply to ensure that bubs can be educated in the Catholic or Anglican school system. However, recently simpler stylenaming ceremonies are held to welcome the new arrival into the family.

What criteria do you think is important when choosing a godparent? Leave your comments below.

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