You likely put a lot of thought into choosing your child's first name when they were a baby and may have even scrolled through many of those "baby name" books to make sure you chose the perfect one for your new child. If your child, as they have grown older, has decided they don't like their first name and have even asked you to change it, then you may wonder just whether you should grant them their request and, if you do, just how to do it.
The decision on whether to allow a child or teenager to change their first name can be a tough one, so read on to learn some steps to determining if changing their name really is in their best interest and how to do it if you decide to comply with your child's request.
Step 1: Figure out Their Dislike of Their Name Is "Just a Phase" Or Will Likely Continue
One of the first and easiest ways to determine if you should grant your child a name change request is to consider how long your child has disliked their first name. You may remember being a child and going through phases when you wished your first name was that of a celebrity or maybe even disliked your name simply due to it being unique, which later in life, you grew to love.
If your child just recently told you that they dislike their first name, then simply "waiting it out" a bit to see if they bring the request up again is a good idea.
However, you can also look for the following signs that their desire to change their name is just a phase that will likely pass:
- They want to change their name to that of a celebrity. Your child's favorite celebrity will change often, so it is easy to see why you can't change their name every time they have a new celebrity "fave."
- They don't like it suddenly due to a child making fun of it in school, even though their name is fairly common. While it may be tempting to let your child change their name due to school bullying, if your child were to change their name, that doesn't mean the bullying will end. This is a problem that needs to be handled with a parent-teacher conference and not a name change.
Other "fleeting" reasons your child may choose to dislike their name temporarily include it being common in the classroom, your child simply encountering a name "they like better," and self-esteem problems that are causing them to dislike everything about themselves that warrant lessons in loving themselves and possibly the help of a counselor.
Step 2: Ask Them Why Changing Their Name is Important to Them & Explain the Permanency of It
If your child is still asking you to change their first name even after time passes and any bullying and/or self-esteem issues have been addressed, then it is time to look into the root cause of their persisting dislike of their first name.
While you may see no signs that your child is transgender, gay, or lesbian, if your child is requesting a name that is typically only used by the opposite gender or is relatively gender neutral, such as Chris or Kelly, then consider asking them if the fact that the name is often used by the opposite gender has anything to do with their sudden desire for a name change. They may or may not open up to you about any gender confusion they are experiencing during the discussion, but be sure to assure them that you will love them no matter what their sexual orientation is and that they can come to you with any questions they have about it in the future.
If your child is requesting to change their name to one that is typically used by their gender, then ask them why the name change is so important, what they would like to change it to, and make sure they know that the decision will be permanent once a legal name change is performed.
How to Change Your Child's First Name Legally
Once you decide that your child's name change is for the right reasons, let them begin using it casually with friends and around the house to make sure they still like it after a few months. Once you know that their desire to go by a new first name is for the right reasons and they understand the permanency of it, then follow these steps to legally change it:
- Speak with your child's other legal parent about the change. Child name changes require the consent of both legal guardians in most states.
- Look into your state's laws regarding what court you need to file your child's name change paperwork in and how much the filing fee will be.
- Submit a "Petition for Name Change" to the designated court along with all other supporting legal documents required.
- Publish a Name Change notice in the local newspaper. Your state will have specific laws regarding how long the notice must run in the paper.
- Provide proof that the Name Change notice ran in the newspaper for the required period of time to the court.
- Attend a court hearing for official approval of your child's name change.
- Inform the social security office, Bureau of Vital Statistics, and your child's school of the name change.
- Order a new birth certificate and social security card for your child that both display your child's new legal name.
Remember that state laws can vary, so this is a general outline of the steps required in most states to change a child's legal name. Your state's laws may require a more streamlined or more complex set of steps to the name change.
If your child doesn't like their first name, then first consider if they are just "going through a phase" that will pass with time. If you later realize that the name change will truly help make them happy and they understand that their new name will be permanent, then follow these steps to obtaining a legal name change for your child.