Children can be as emotionally fragile as they are innocent and kind. The loss of a parent (or both) at a young age can be shattering. 💔 It is a highly traumatic event that has a long-lasting impact on a child’s overall mental/emotional development. The warm embrace of a parental figure helps ease their pain in such situations. Legal guardians serve to help the child cope with this catastrophe and move forward to lead warm, fulfilling lives.
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Despite what the term suggests, becoming a legal guardian is about more than accepting the legal responsibility of the child. As a guardian, you are expected to provide for the child financially, emotionally and help create a loving environment. 🥰
But how do you start with this? How can you prepare to do the best you can for the child you’re about to take under your wing? 👼 Read on to find out.
Things to consider.
- Is your life flexible enough to accommodate them?
It is often said, raising a child is a full-time job. You’ll need to be there for their sports meets, 🏅 theatre performances, parent-teacher conferences and much more. Can your schedule accommodate all of this? You can only be an effective guardian if you are present to have the child’s back whenever they need you. This might mean you'll have to switch the Friday pub crawl for a Disney movie night, but it’ll all be worth it (and more!). 💛
- Do you have any family members, friends or a partner to help you? 👪
While it is possible to raise a child as a single parent/guardian, it certainly isn’t easy. Personal and professional commitments may make it difficult for you to be physically or emotionally available 24/7. Having a trusted helper can make guardianship a little easier for all of you. Do they have any other family members who could help or other trusted family friends? Getting to know those who will be around to help with the child, might be helpful to your new family member.
- Does the child have any health problems?
If a child suffers from any health problems, physically, emotionally, psychologically etc. the demands on their caregivers can be quite large. You might need to make time for checkups, therapy sessions and other recreational activities recommended to you and the child. It is recommended that you obtain a comprehensive list of health conditions/allergies to watch out for as well when you accept legal guardianship. Being prepared can help you make better decisions, especially if you haven’t raised any children in the past.
- Are you financially prepared for this?
When we said raising a kid requires a lot of your time, we also meant money. 💷 Medical fees, school fees, college funds, grocery bills, day-to-day expenses, etc., add up to a sizable amount when raising a kid. As the legal guardian, you will be financially responsible for the kid until they are 18. You might want to start looking at a budget when you accept this responsibility.
- Guardianship and adoption
Adoption and guardianship, while fairly similar, have a few fundamental legal differences.
When you gain the guardianship of a child, you can only retain that guardianship until they are 18 years of age. The birth parents (if either one is still alive) will have to fully consent to this and can revoke your guardian privileges at any time.
Adoption, on the other hand, gives you all the rights that biological parents would have. It is a permanent guardianship where you will be considered a parent to this child throughout their lives for all legal purposes. You should go ahead and conduct thorough research on both adoption and guardianship before you decide on one.
Know what to say to the child
Helping the child grieve and adjust to this significant change in their life requires communication. During the initial stages, the child might require constant attention and affirmation from you, or they may be quite quiet. Making them feel heard and protected will help them learn and heal. Fully acknowledging that this is a personal tragedy can also help, as pretending everything is still normal may invalidate their trauma and feelings. Remember, that every child is different! 👏
Finally, it is a good idea to look for any last wishes that their birth parents’ will might state. These are usually incredibly personal tasks that can help you connect with the child better and establish a lasting bond.
If you are looking to choose your child’s guardian, there are a few things you can do to get prepared as well. You can make changes in your investments to accommodate savings for the child's future. You can add the kids to your will through Bequest with our hassle-free online will services, powered by JPEP, who make it possible for you to make these changes at the drop of a hat! You can also add the child or children as a beneficiary to your Bequest Life insurance policy. These are excellent long term changes that help you secure their futures early on in their life. 💯