Claiming Your Child
Naming your child is part of claiming that child as your own. Biological parents select names for their children, and I see no reason adoptive parents should be different. We gave our daughter names that reflect her position in our family. She knows, of course, that she has another name, and that it's also part of her.
Just as parents have the right and responsibility to determine their children's language, lifestyle, religion, and schooling, parents also decide what they'll be called. I hope Ms. Friedman can learn to enjoy the fact that her child is hers, and not feel that she must defer to a birth mother's preferences.
—Rebecca A. Helgesen
Dignifying a Child's Past
I think that a child's name should be kept if at all possible. Not only does it make the transition to a new family a little easier, but I think it gives some dignity to the child's past. In the end, it is the parents love that shapes who children become, and their name will just be one piece of who they are.
Adding Theirs to Ours
Adoptive parents do change a child's name upon adoption—they give the child the new family's last name. The children bring what is theirs—their birth name, history, heritage, and memories—and add it to ours.
Our daughter's birth mother kept the name she chose private, so we didn't have the option to keep it. Even if wed known it, though, I still would have chosen my daughter's first name. I felt like I had waited to be a mother for so long that I was grateful for the chance to name her.
However, if we had known our daughter's birth name, we would have kept it as her middle name.
A Special Connection
We kept our son's birth name as a middle name in honor of his birth mother. She was thrilled by our decision. When we visit or write to her, we call him by his first and middle names. It's special to us all.
Let Older Children Weigh In
I believe it is ultimately up to the parents to decide to keep or change a child's name, but parents adopting older children should let them be part of the decision. When we adopted our nine-, 11-, and 15-year-olds, we asked them what they wanted to change or keep. All three decided to keep their given first names and choose new middle names when they joined our family. It was a great bonding moment for all of us.
Naming Is a Sign of Affection
My daughter's birth mother didn't like the name I had chosen for her. She wanted to integrate both of our names into the spelling of the name she chose. Nonetheless, I went with the name I had selected and had already been using to refer to my daughter during the two months leading to her birth.
In a newborn situation, it is easy to not keep the child's "original" name. My friends who adopted toddlers often chose the children's first names, while keeping the child's original first name as a middle name. This doesn't seem to have bothered any of the children. How many of us have willingly accepted a nickname, even as adults, as a sign of affection? Children are so much more open than adults—unless they are old enough to have their own thoughts on the subject, I think kids are very likely to be happy to have a special name given them by their new parents as a sign of love.
—Lynne de Coupigny
You are viewing this exclusive AF content as a guest. To access our full Adoption Parenting Library — plus digital issues, eBooks, expert audio and more — join Adoptive Families today.