We are adopting an 8-year-old who has been in foster care for 3 years. We have known her for those three years, and she is very excited to finally make it official. With all the termination visits completed with her birth parents, we have been able to bring up the fact that her last name will change to ours.
At first she was a little hesitant, but has since decided that she not only wants to change her last name to ours, but wants to change all of her names... My hope was that we could use her first name, add her birth last name as her middle name (she does not identify with her current middle name at all - only found out what it was this year, and can't even spell it), and then use our last name. But, she wants to change her whole name. She wants a derivative of her first, currently hyphenated first name, and then Hazel - a totally unrelated name, and then our last name.
I've read all the threads about changing names, and appreciate the heated opinions on the topic. Although I wouldn't have chosen her name for a child myself, I've known her for 3 years and had no intention of changing it. But, now it is she who wants the change. I'm not sure how I feel about this. She is only 8, and I don't want her to resent the fact that I let her change it in years to come. On the other hand, I feel like this is her exerting a little bit of control over the whole situation, and if she really wants to change her name, I think this is a fine time to do it.
I guess I'm just looking for some opinions from people who have BTDT. What would you all do in a similar situation? Should I be talking to a therapist about it, or is it just not that big of a deal?
Thanks, in advance, for your advice.
I think it's a really tricky topic.
Many 8 year olds, with no history of adoption, might say they would like to change their names. They might fantasize about having the name of their favorite actress or animated figure, or just for the sake of novelty, wish to be someone different for awhile. My just turned 9 year old (not adopted) would probably jump at the chance for a name change, just for novelty sake.
They are 8 years old, after all.
They can't possibly see into the future and how they will feel about it later, or what naming really means, or the significance of their birth family as they developmentally grow and process everything. It's a big decision.
I have known children who thought it was cool to change their name at adoption, only to be really upset about it when they got to more of a coming of age place in their lives. Ones' name and sense of place become much more important as one grows older.
I don't think I have any clear answers. I've known children who weren't upset later (they were usually much younger than 8 at the change and weren't consulted) and those that have been upset.
I wish you luck in making this really important decision.
We have a two and five year old we're adopting. The five year old is very excited to have our last name. When he first came to us, age 4, he wanted to be called another name. He had been to a few other foster homes so we thought it was a name they called him. After a month we figured out he had named himself after the red Power Ranger! We were okay with it, but it did fade away after a few months and he was back to his old name. I think it was in part due to visits with his birth Dad and his school using his given name. We are changing the two year old's name (what our the odds his first name was the same as our last name!) My husband and I have decided that if the name issue becomes a big deal for them later in life, we'll help them change it to something else (assuming it's a real concern and not a teenage rebellious whim!). I'm not adopted and went through a phase where I was going to change my name as a teenage!
I suppose if your 8 year old sticks to the new name right up to when you have to get the new birth certificate, go with it. Although there would be a cost, it could be changed backed should she decide it was a regrettable decision. Best of Luck!
You could let her go by it without legally changing it, many kids have nicknames and they aren't always related to their names. This way she can still have control over what name she goes by, and you're still respecting her birth name in case she changes her mind. If you have a few months to decide, then you can use the chosen name socially and make sure she likes it. I actually really suggest this, you don't want to change her name only to find out that she isn't as comfortable with the new name as she thought she'd be. As the PP said, she is 8 and probably can't be aware of how this will effect her for the rest of her life. The thought of changing your name may have never occurred to her and the novelty of it may wear off quickly.
This is an important decision, but it also isn't permanent. No matter what you decide to do, she can change her name once she's an adult. It's good that you want to keep ties to her birth family, and also that you want to respect her choices.
I would look into the laws in your state about changing the name on birth certificates. Am I correct that she'll be getting a new one with the new name to reflect her joining your family? If so, whether or not she can change the name on it may have an impact on your decision.
We adopted our son a month before his ninth birthday. He wanted to keep his first name and we allowed that (obviously), even though it's objectively a pretty awful name. Changing his surname was non-negotiable, but he had been enthusiastic about that since the first month he was with us and his birthmother was very supportive of it, so no conflict there. We allowed him to pick his middle name (his birth middle name was an unwitting demonic reference, his birthmother has never seen The Omen), and while we aren't aesthetically thrilled with what he picked, it is a very normal and neutral name that he could use in adulthood if he ever realizes that his first name marks him culturally as a person he is not.
All this to say.... he most loves the name he selected all by himself. I think he will always love it. He found that process empowering. OP, if your daughter has a strong desire to select new first and middle names and they are not actually stripper names, I think it makes sense to let her take point on this one.
Thank you all so much for your responses. I actually love the name that she has picked, I just want to make sure that letting her do it is the right choice in the long run. I talked to her therapist about it, and she agreed that giving her some choice on this is a good idea - especially on her first name, as it really is unfortunate - and the change makes it almost sound normal, without changing it completely - but thinks I should encourage her carefully to maybe keep her current middle name or her current last name as her middle name instead of a new one entirely. It will be several months before we have to make the official change, so I think I we will go with her first name choice, and keep the discussion open about her middle name until we absolutely have to make the choice. I am glad to know that my worry over this isn't unfounded, and that others have turned out normal while changing their names.
So, just an update: After much discussion with DD to make sure that she is comfortable with her choice, she has decided to change her first name, take her birth last name (a common and beautiful girl's first name) as her MN and take our last name. The first name she has chosen is very much like her current first name, in fact her current name can still be used as a NN, but is more classic. I told her that I thought that in the future she would like to have part of her birth name, and that she could always hold onto "Hazel" for when she has a daughter. She said that she would keep her last name as a MN, as long as she could change her first name. I think it's a good compromise, especially since the first name she's picked is similar enough, yet less "questionable."
(And, a whole other issue that came up was when I went to her first Dr. appointment and learned that she can't even hear the first syllable in her current first name - she has moderate hearing loss. This is probably why she picked the alternative that she did, because it basically just takes off the sounds that she cannot even hear. When I heard that I felt even better about the choice.)
I think there is no predicting how all this will turn out. (That was said with a chuckle). I needed to change both my kids' names for serious security reasons when they were 3 & 4. Today, at 18, BigGirl wants to change back to her birth name. Interestingly, she feels no connection to the family, just likes the sound of the name better. She carries some resentment about her early years. YoungSon, at 17, loves his name, and would not consider changing it, although he plans to look up his birth father for whom he was originally named. He has always felt a bond with the man. I would have guessed the exact opposite responses. Chalk one up to individuality!
Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)
Ours were much younger. Our first AD we shortened her first name and lengthened her middle name. Our second AD we changed completely.
Our current foster son goes by a shortened version of his middle name and does not like his first name, I could definitely seeing him take his middle as a new first name.
Carly, mama to DS C (5th grade), DD Miss M (07/09, fostered 1/10, adopted 08/10), and Little Miss C (11/10, fostered 01/11, adopted 11/12). Foster Son, Mr. A, age 11 placed 10/13.
My angel babies , ~01/08~ (twins), ~09/08~, and ~01/09~.