Modern Etiquette: Choosing a godparent for your child

LONDON (Reuters) - With the arrival of Britain’s Prince George of Cambridge, our attentions have been turned towards the etiquette of new babies.

After the initial flurry of visitors, presents and cards, many parents are faced with the important, and long-term, decision of choosing godparents. Here is some guidance for both parents and potential godparents:

Careful thought should go into choosing godparents.

It is a huge honor so, before asking, you must think about whether the individual will be prepared and able to fulfill the role. A godparent must be in regular contact with the family. Don’t ask someone who you know will be one of those godparents who no one has seen for years.

Being a godparent is both an honor and a responsibility.

There are no hard and fast rules nowadays but, in practice, there is a world of difference between just being a godparent and being a good godparent - both in the eyes of the child and its parents.

It is very flattering to be asked to be a godparent but, before committing to the role, try and understand what the parents expect from you.

Parents usually select godparents who will bring something to the mix - for example, adventure, glamour, sporting prowess, culture, humor or sociability.

Think about what might be expected of you and what makes you different to the other godparents.

If you think that you are not up to the role or that the parents’ expectations may be too much, then it is best to decline politely.

Some adults collect godchildren like stamps; they end up with an impressive collection but never do anything with them - if you haven’t got the time or interest, then be honest and decline the role.

Never forget a birthday, Christmas or other significant date - give generously and thoughtfully. Try and be there for big occasions such as special family days, school plays and birthday parties.

Find ways of keeping in touch.

Send them little presents in the post. When they are old enough, send regular emails and text messages and encourage them to contact you independently from their parents.

Spend time with your godchild alone.

You can build up your own rapport together away from the parents. Speak to them as your equal - you have a unique opportunity to be one of their first grown-up friends.

(Jo Bryant is an etiquette advisor and editor at Debrett’s, the UK authority on etiquette and modern manners ( Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Editing by Paul Casciato