Choosing a godparent is a time-honored tradition in Catholic and other religious families. Traditionally, godparents serve as spiritual guides for their godchildren. They are meant to serve as role models, provide spiritual guidance, and take an active interest in the spiritual development of their godchildren. Some families who are not religious still select godparents for their children, and some religious families select godparents who are not religious. The role of godparents for the non-religious is much the same as it is for the religious, without the spiritual mentoring.
Show an Interest in Their Lives
One of the primary roles of godparents -- whether in a religious or non-religious context -- is to take an active interest in the lives of their godchildren. Godparents should make an effort to spend time with their godchildren, taking them out for one-on-one outings or to spend time with the whole family. They should attend sports games, dance recitals, or school plays. They should ask about what's happening at school, who their godchildren's friends are, and what activities they enjoy doing. Godparents should treat their godchildren like they would their own children or close family members.
Be a Role Model
Godparents who are serving in a non-religious context must still act as role models for their godchildren. Being a role model may not mean being an example of religious faith, but it still means modeling values. Each family and godparent should work out what those values are at the time the godparenting relationship is established. In general, being a role model may mean modeling kindness, honesty, integrity, dedication to family, and responsibility. Godparents can provide this role model through their behavior and through the guidance they give their godchildren.
Be a Good Listener
All children need a close adult in their lives who is not one of their parents whom they can turn to when they are upset, in trouble, or in need of help. Godparents can serve in this role. By being a good listener, godparents can be the people that their godchildren turn to when they need emotional support, like when they fail a test or are teased by friends. When children get this kind of positive support from a godparent or other trusted adult, they are less likely to rely on and be influenced by friends when making big decisions.
Fill In As Replacement Caregiver
Traditionally, it has been the responsibility of godparents to care for their godchildren in the event of the parents' death. This is still considered to be a responsibility of godparents even in a non-religious context. Not only should godparents fill in if a child is orphaned, but they should also be available to care for godchildren if a parent has to work late, go to a doctor's appointment or go out of town. Godparents do not have to be on-call babysitters, but being available for childcare is standard. Godparents may also be called upon to pick up children from school or daycare, if needed.