A rose by any other name, would smell so sweet!

(119 Posts)

Please, if you feel willing and able, come and share your thoughts on names.

Please, please be aware this will be a sensitive and emotive topic so please:

Only share what you feel comfortable and no real names or nick names at all, please.

We were told we should not change a child's name. But I know some people do, have done, will do. I know that it used to be common practice.

Does anyone use nicknames or pet names or change things round?

Have any people adopted as children experienced name change either by their choice or adopted parent choice and how does it feel.

How do birth and adoptive parents feel?

Sorry, I know it will be emotive so let's all be nice to each other! after all this my thread will probably be empty!

Mama1980 Wed 29-Jan-14 12:48:59

Hi I have custody of my eldest dd now 16 by sgo, she's lived with me since she was 9. The circumstances she was initially raised in were traumatic and abusive. (think criminal charges)
Since she has lived with me She has gone by a nickname one that I have always called her, same first letter but nothing more in common, she is determined to change it to this officially when she becomes 18. She also uses my surname, though again not officially but everyone knows her as this. All of this was only done with discussion and support from her counsellor.
I have custody again by sgo of her 9 week old sister, with a ss view to my adopting her given her young age. I named her myself due to a large number of factors with bm s legal consent.

Thanks so much Mama I can see that for your family this looks like a good way of doing things. Hope all goes well with your new baby and your older daughter.

CheeryGiraffe Wed 29-Jan-14 12:51:45

<takes the plunge> grin

I don't really have an issue with name changing so long as the child is either happy with it, or is too young to be aware what their name is. I do think keeping their birth name as a middle name is nice, though.

My main concern about names though is security, mainly online. I think if a name is particularly identifiable then it should be changed as a matter of course, and to be totally honest (dependent on the child's age) DH and I will seriously consider changing a name regardless of what the child's birth name is. As I have said on the thread about tracing a child once they're 18, I think this should be done when and if the child wants it to happen, and a name change is one way to ensure that this is the case.

As a side comment - I also think it's nice for adoptive parents to add a name even if they're not changing the name. They will be raising the child, and will be their Mum and Dad, naming a child is a massive part of becoming a parent, and I think it's nice for this to be allowed for adoptive parents too.

<pulls on hard hat> wink

CheeryGiraffe Wed 29-Jan-14 12:53:24

Oh! I wasn't the first! Slow typing strikes again....

Mama That's a lovely story about your DD's name - and so nice to hear.

NinjaPenguin Wed 29-Jan-14 12:57:40

My (bio) brother who was adopted (separately to me) had his name changed. Think, for example, Benedict to Benjamin. Only, his original name was very distinctive, and coupled with our surname, it was more for his own safety.

So I don't think it is necessarily wrong or anything. I think it should be a similar name, or a shortened name, or a name where you can use the same nickname however. Although DB had his name changed (he was 5) the same nickname was used, which also helped for me to feel that he wasn't being separated/taken away from me/the past, and it helped him too.

SorrelForbes Wed 29-Jan-14 13:02:46

Both my foster children have silly, made up names. The 2 yr old is unaware but the 6 yr old knows that people laugh at her name (it's a brand name) and keeps asking me if she can choose a new one sad

Her name is easily converted to a really nice name by the removal of one digit and I wonder if her forever family might quietly just start calling her that.

RabbitRabbit78 Wed 29-Jan-14 13:16:07

Unless it's a distinctive name that would make tracing easy, IMO they should keep their birth first name. It's the only thing that their birth parents have given them in many cases after all! It can also lead to identity issues in later life if their first name is changed (I have read about this in several places while we were doing the reading during our home study but can't recall which books now).

OTOH I can completely understand why you would want to change their first name. Is there any benefit to the child though or is it just for us as adopters?

Thanks one and all.

I guess what I would like to get at is what the benefits are to the child.

I am not personally worried (myself) about changing a name or naming a child. We have a birth child whose name we named and in many ways it is a weird experience!

You agonise over a name, pick something lovely, that you love and then experience years of having to shout it up the stairs (in a slightly angry voice) to a child who will not get ready, say it in an exasperated voice in public, have other people pass comment on it (or mispronounce it) and often end up with a totally silly nickname which you use at your closest moment with your child! Or at least that is my experience of it all!

I totally get that for some a name is very fundemental and I want to understand that more. I come from a background of travel overseas, which has meant my name has varied a little in many places and I have had lots of nicknames, so my birth name has maybe less significance for me. I also changed my surname when I married and so I don't have the same name I had for the first 30 plus years of my life.

The leaders of our prep group was very insistent on adoptive parents not changing the name. I am sure there are lots of good reasons for this but I can't really remember what they said now.

Rabbit in what way is a name the only thing a birth parent gives a child. They gave them life, they gave them all their genes, influencing hair, skin and eye colour and maybe lots more. They gave them all their early experiences, good or bad, nine months in the womb plus whatever other time they had with them. I am happy ot be persuaded otherwise but I can't really see a name is a all a birth parent gives a child.

I must also say I am not mad keen to change a name. I only saw one child whose name made me uncertain because it was similar to our daughter's name and in the end we decided that did not matter and asked about him. But I must admit if, as in the case * SorrelForbes* mentions, the child had a name so unusual and 'difficult' that they would experence bullying or teasing etc because of it, I would be very worried and would really need to think about any 'pluses' verses 'minuses' of keeping such a name.

Mama1980 Wed 29-Jan-14 13:44:46

I'm aware my situation is slightly different my daughter was much older when she came of me and has (very grin) clear opinions of her own. We explored this issue extensively during her counselling sessions, and for her it boils down to not wanting me to have named her she's very secure in our relationship, she knows she is no less my daughter than my birth children despite there being no actual adoption order.
But she wanted distance from her birth mother in particular she didn't want to be associated with that horrible time simply by her name when she had moved on. She says she doesn't feel like that person anymore so the name is not what her life is anymore.
The counsellor respected her and agreed that her desire for this wasn't about punishment or erasing the past simply about her moving forward in a positive way.
This was dealt with several years ago now, in truth very few people even know she is not my daughter by birth, or know her legal name. She still wants to legally change it when she turns 18 mostly because it's a logistical hassle.
I actually wanted my youngest s bm to name her but for many reasons mostly known only to her she would not. I wanted to give her that chance.

CheeryGiraffe Wed 29-Jan-14 14:09:17

I agree with most of the comments made - DH and I had a really serious think about names after going through some profiles and saw the types of names a lot of children had. Many were VERY unusual and misspelt (which I have been told is often not a 'mistake' on the birth parents part, but can be done to enable easier tracing later on), and I would at the very least correct the spelling and/or make it into a more 'normal' name.

My main concern about unusual or misspelt names from the point of view of the child (whilst they are young at least) is standing out. I am sure there will be various events and situations in which adopted children may feel different, and I wouldn't want to leave them with an unusual name to carry about every day. As SorrelForbes says they realise very young what's normal and what isn't.

Sadly there are also connotations about names. One of the things a lot of parents consider when picking a name is the image it projects of the person who's name it is. If I felt our child had a name that would hinder them in the future then I would change it.

I also disagree with the idea that this is the only thing that the birth parents have given their children. Like italiangreyhound says, they have given them an awful lot more. Often they have also given them a whole host of issues that they have to deal with, and sometimes a name that is going to be a problem for them.

Names are odd - I had very bad associations with my maiden name and couldn't want to get rid of it. I used to hate writing my name, and had the concern that everyone else knew what that name meant to me. Once I was married and had a new name, it was like having a cloud lifted. I don't think twice about my name now. It's amazing the transformation just changing your name can have, so I totally understand your daughter's feelings Mama.

Should we adopt a child with a 'normal' name I wouldn't change it just so that I could say I had given them their name, and I would quite possibly keep it (depending on how 'safe' we thought it was) but I don't think there is a problem if people wish to.

It's a very emotive and decisive subject - and not at all black and white, I think it comes down to individual circumstances of the child, their birth family and the adoptive parents.

Thepoodoctor Wed 29-Jan-14 14:10:08

Interesting debate.

I think the real game changer here is Facebook. I have to admit that if I adopted again and the child's name wasn't in the Sam/Lily category of ordinariness, I would seriously consider a first name change. Not because I am against contact - far from it - but because I would want to protect my children from contact not made at a time of their choosing, and without a chance to prepare. I think contact should be led by the adopted person, and social media is a threat to that.

And of course in a minority of cases the birth family will pose a significant risk to child or adoptive family if they traced them. Not that usually the case, but if it is then I think the name should be changed.

Facebook aside I think the pros and cons are:

If you adopt any child older than a tiny baby they ARE that name - however daft it may sound. By the end of intros you may never be able to imagine the child called anything but Ebeneezer or whatever. They will make it their own.

A child being adopted has just lost every anchor they ever knew in their small world. To my mind it's not the moment to rock their sense of identity still further by calling them a different name.

Adult adoptees who've had names changed have spoken of feeling as if their identity had been remade by their new parents. I have to admit that on reading the book of the film 'philomena' that really struck me. The boys adoptive parents evidently just decided to call a three year old something different. You can't wipe out history with a child of that age and I think it is often felt that name changing suggests you think you can.

That said other adult adoptees have expressed profound relief that their parents got rid of a dreadful name on their behalf, or have been very glad to lose a reminder of a traumatic past history, so I think it does all depend.

On the other hand - there is an important aspect of claiming the child as part of their adoptive family that it is unwise to ignore. I would worry that some children might feel their adoptive parents didn't care enough to choose a name for them.

I think often the best way is to choose middle names and keep first. My DC know that some of their names came from birth parents and some were chosen by us. They have both experimented with going by the names we chose and if that is their wish in adult life, no problem.

There may be other reasons to do one thing or the other - perhaps if you adopt transracially and some/all of the child's names reflect their culture of origin, it might be very desirable to keep them. Or if a name is a link with a family member it might be either desirable or undesirable to retain it depending. I will admit to losing a middle name which was a link to a very negative figure in one DCs life.

And finally, whoever worries about unusual names should have a good look at what the middle classes call their birth children. My DCs mildly unusual names are NOTHING compared to some of the things their little friends go by! grin

Hayleyh34 Wed 29-Jan-14 15:32:22

I fundamentally disagree with changing a childs name and belief that it is a really important part of their identity. My DD came to us when she was 3 and she has a name that we would never have chosen and is unusual where we live.

We did not think for one moment that we would change it. We gave her a family name as a middle name but she is known by her first name. Around the house we sometimes call her by a nickname but that is a sign of affection NOT because we can't bear her name.

3 years along we don't give her name a second thought, it is her and we love her

Hayleyh34 Wed 29-Jan-14 15:35:44

Meant to say, a name change feels more for the benefit of the adults than the child. When the child is and adult if they want to change their name then they can.

Hayleyh34 Wed 29-Jan-14 15:36:07

So many typo's today - sorry!

CloserThanYesterday Wed 29-Jan-14 15:48:12

Hmm ... I get the impression sometimes that adopters are under pressure to keep the names that the birth parents have to them, but I do wonder why.

Fair enough if the child is old enough to have become attached to that name, and really wants to keep it. Likewise if it's a 'normal' name, I don't think I'd want to change it then.

BUT, if it's something really unusual, I can't see how an early name change can hurt, as long as the original name is acknowledged in some way (e.g as a middle name) - I can't help thinking that a name that the adopted parents and siblings are comfortable with would help bonding all round. If a name is noticeably different to the rest of the family, wouldn't this make it harder for the adopted child to feel part of the family?

I might be getting this all wrong - maybe prep course will change my mind!

Hayleyh34 Wed 29-Jan-14 15:54:25

But Closer, my DD had everything that she knew , taken away from her when she moved to us. There is no way we could have changed her name as well. That would have made her feel that there was something wrong with her name. And there isn't

Lilka Wed 29-Jan-14 16:02:33

I think the importany thing is to keep our childrens (on an individual level, because there is no consensus nor solution that would suit every situation) best interests at heart. If we have a choice on whether or not to change name, then our children deserve to have parents who thought carefully about what to do and made a decision keeping their childs needs in the forefront of their minds.

Of course sometimes there is no choice, and sometimes it's very obvious what to do eg. a baby called, say, "Ilovehitler". (I made that up!)

But leaving the obvious aside, there are many things that may or may not apply to your situation...how unusual a name is, linking in directly with security issues, age of child, and so on. Yes I think it does well to keep in mind that your childs (birth) name might be very important to them later on

We can't guaruntee we will make a decision that will work out brilliantly, or a decision that our children will be 100% comfortable with. But if you can make a decision which was based on what you thought was the best thing for your child, and you can explain to your child and honestly say "this is why I changed/kept your name and I did it because I truly thought it was in your best interests given a, b and c. But it's okay if you have conflicting feelings about it"...then you've done all you can do IMHO smile

SorrelForbes Wed 29-Jan-14 16:02:33

This is all really interesting and has really made me think! However, if a 6 yr old girl already dislikes her name (and trust me, she cringes if we say it out loud because people stare, do double takes and laugh) then surely changing it would be a sensible thing to consider.

To clarify I'm not talking about an unusual name like Persephone or an old fashioned name like Ethel.

Lilka Wed 29-Jan-14 16:08:11

I should say that

DD1 chose (totally by herself) to change her middle names, and picked 2 new ones out before informing me what her new name was

DD2 kept all her names bar surname the same

Because of a security issue with DS, I gave him a new first name, moving his former first name to be a middle name. He was 2 at the time, now age nearly 9 he loves his name and says he likes it better than his old first name. We'll see how he feels when he grows up, I would be totally comfortable if he wanted to go by his old first name at a later stage. It is, after all, HIS name

I tend to lean towards keeping the name as much as possible, BUT at the same time, don't underestimate security issues. Also, I think adding a new middle name (whilst retaining the first and other middle name/s as they are) is a lovely thing to do, and I would struggle to see any serious downsides to doing that. Say, Lily Mary Brown becomes Lily Mary Sarah Smith, or Lily Sarah Mary Smith.

CheeryGiraffe Wed 29-Jan-14 16:09:21

Hayley There is a difference between a name you'd never personally choose and which is unusual, and one that's just silly. The example that SorrelForbes mentioned about a little girl being teased, and asking to change her name is a prime example of why sometimes names should be changed (even if it's just amending the spelling, or moving the birth name to a middle name). I don't think for a second that Closer was implying you should have changed your DD's name, just that in some circumstances it's OK. There are also instances where a name has to be changed in order to protect the child and is done so at the insistence of Social Services. As with all things on planet adoption, there is no hard and fast rule. What is right for one child and family, isn't for another. smile

Angelwings11 Wed 29-Jan-14 16:09:28

Our AD had an unusual and distinct first name and there was (is) a security issue. We tried to shorten this name, however we were led by our AD who responded only to the name that we since have changed it to.

This is an emotive subject, one opinion is that by changing a name is it is essentially 'claiming' a child and that BF have given these children DNA, undiaginosed Mental health issues etc, early life trauma. Others
opinions say you are rejecting part of them by changing it and that this is the only thing that BF have given them. There are no wrong or right answers here I think.

I know many adopters who have changed the first names of their children, so I do think it is more common than people think.

On another note I think some BP are becoming more savvy in their choice of names, giving quite identifiable, made up names (Jme -jamie, Kce- kacey just a number I have seen in the children who wait magazine) to make tracing their children easier.

Lilka Wed 29-Jan-14 16:10:10

Sorrel for an older child, I think the childs own feelings and wishes must be given top priority. If I adopted a 6 year old who didn't like her name, then I wouldn't hesitate to let her pick a new one out. The child gets to choose, unless they want their new name to be something very rude, offensive etc, in which 'foot goes down'

Hayleyh34 Wed 29-Jan-14 16:10:33

I totally agree Lilka if there is a need to for security but the thought of changing a name because it doesn't fit makes me really uncomfortable.

Our DD loves the middle name that we added, not least because it's the same name as her 90 year old Great-Granny!

Hayleyh34 Wed 29-Jan-14 16:12:42

cheery I'm well aware that it's not a one size fit all approach, was just stating my opinion

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now