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The Guardian
If something happened to you and your spouse, who would take care of your child(ren)? Dr. Karen Sherman gives you some pointers on this difficult, yet often overlooked subject.

Finding the right guardians for your kids can be a tough issue to discuss.

My husband and I have been arguing over who will take care of our kids if something happens to us. How can we work this out?

I often tell couples it’s a realistic expectation you will disagree and have fights. Perhaps one dispute a couple doesn’t anticipate is who will have the responsibility of taking care of the kids in case something happens to the two of you.

This issue is probably one of the most significant disputes a couple will have—far more important than the usual concerns like who does what around the house or how much money should be spent on your next vacation. And yet, it’s also a very tender and difficult matter.

Clearly, the reason it’s so touchy, and therefore open to disagreement, is because neither one of you likely wants to even consider the possibility of having the need. However, the unfortunate reality in life is there may, in fact, be a need. And acting as responsible parents, it’s your duty to have this discussion. Additionally, whatever you decide upon must also then be put into action in the form of some legal document.

As I have so often suggested in this column, you will best be served by having an open, calm discussion. Go into it with a receptive attitude and a willingness to hear what your spouse has to say rather than with a predetermined notion of the appropriate choice(s).

Before you start to look at the various people you would consider, talk about the values/issues that are important to you. Here are some points to think about:
  1. Do you feel it be essential that it’s a couple, or can the person be single?
  2. Does it have to be a family member?
  3. Does religion matter?
  4. Do you want the responsible party to have children or be childless?
  5. Does geographical location matter?
Then, think about the various people in your life whom might be able to fulfill this responsibility. Remember, no one will be perfect; no one will fit the bill exactly as you would want it. However, as you look at the various possibilities, who would best love your children and raise them in the manner that would make you most comfortable? If they are one of the sets of your parents, you might even need to consider a back up, depending on age.

You also have to bear in mind that the people you select have to agree. After all, this is a big responsibility. Will you be leaving financial arrangements for your children so the selected party is not monetarily burdened?

Needless to say, you must be cognizant of how your children will feel. Are the persons you choose, ones your children will feel okay with when they are feeling your loss? Depending on your kids' ages, you might consider getting their input. However, I would strongly recommend you not ask them outright, as this would only create an unlikely unnecessary fear in them.

So, yes, selecting a guardian for your kids can be an area of great dispute. But with the careful handling of this delicate matter, your precious ones can be taken care of in a loving way.

Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is co-author of Marriage Magic! Find It! Make It Last.

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Over 1 million couples turn to Hitched for expert marital advice every year. Sign up now for our newsletter & get exclusive weekly content that will entertain, educate and inspire your marriage.

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