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I’m Afraid to Ask for a New Name

I am 13 and want to ask my parents if they would change my name. I know the name isn't too personal, because it was from a TV or movie character. I am just scared of asking my mom. I know I am young, but I have thought about it for years and it would just feel right. I want to do it before I get a high school diploma or driver’s license. I have anxiety and don't speak to many people at school. Is there any possible way to bring this up to my parents without offending them? Is there a way to bring it up more casually? I just don't want them to get mad at me.

–Ready for a Change

I wish I could start by giving you a hug! I also wish I knew if you have a particular reason to believe your parents would get mad at this request. Are they prone to anger? Or is it possible that you are torturing yourself unnecessarily by imagining the worst? Could your anxiety be playing a role?

Many kids your age are hesitant to talk honestly with their parents. And yes, some parents fly off the handle easily, or are too controlling. But many would love to help if their kids would confide in them. They are well-meaning and want you to be happy.

That doesn't mean an automatic "Yes" to your request. After all, you are still pretty young, and your feelings about your name could change again as you get older. So be prepared for some resistance or hesitance on the part of your parents. Know that this doesn't necessarily mean they are angry with you or will never agree to your suggestion.

Do you have another adult that you can confide in, like a teacher, aunt, or therapist? Perhaps that person could help you come up with the right words and a strategy to approach your parents. You might even start with a simple inquiry about how they chose your name, followed by your confession that you just don't feel that the name suits you.

Then you could bring up the new name you've chosen, along with why you like it and how committed you are to it. Let them know how much thought you have given this. I hope you are surprised by their willingness to hear you out.


Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

February 6, 2017 12:06 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm a parent to 12, 15 and 17 year olds. My middle child hates her middle name, and while we chose it with love and care for her, I would be ok with her changing it at some point. It would be more challenging emotionally for me if any of them wanted to change their first names, and I'd bet your parents might feel the same way. One strategy that might work is to ask for a one year run with your chosen name. Ask for their support in asking people to use your new name without getting a legal change. This would give you a trial run to see if you really want to change it and show your parents that you are serious and it isn't a passing fancy. I hope you are met with love as you broach the subject!

February 7, 2017 5:39 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Changing your name socially with your friends is a good step, you can be called anything by them without any worry about the future, driver's licenses, diplomas etc.

The hard part is telling people repeatedly, please don't call me "Sue" call me "Jane". Work with some trusted adults or friends and practice. Just changing your name legally doesn't make it happen - you do. You must find the confidence to tell people. You don't have to start with your parents if they are the hard ones.

February 8, 2017 2:19 AM
By Name Nut (not verified)

You sound like a wise young lady! Let me give you some encouragement!

A man I went to church with confided to a group that he had changed his name about five years before this conversation happened. He was about to finish medical school, and told someone at the school that he had always wanted to change his name. The person he was talking with told him it would be a good idea to do it before he received his medical degree, so he did! I don't remember the details of how his original name was chosen (by his parents, of course), or how he came up with the name he took. I'm pretty sure the middle name he chose is a family name, but I don't remember what he said about it specifically. So... it CAN be done, and I think you are wise to consider doing it before it goes on so many records that would have to be changed, such as a driver's license and a diploma.

Since you mentioned that you have anxiety, I am guessing that you might already be under the care of a doctor or counselor. If so, please share this idea with her or him next time you go and get some professional feedback. As suggested above, this person could also help you decide how to bring up the subject with your parents.

Let me add a word of caution, too, though. When I came through school, there were tons of Lisas (thanks to a character on the soap opera "As The World Turns") and Davids (not sure what made David so popular). By the time I was a teenager and did a lot of babysitting, there was an astronomical amount of Jennifers coming along! I babysat MANY little girls named Jennifer in the 1970's and 1980's! (I think the male equivalent at that time was Jason - bunches of those!) More recently, it's been names like Ava and Olivia. I think you would be wise to avoid choosing a name for yourself that's so trendy, where you might find three others with the same name in class with you. (No kidding, I had FOUR Lisas and THREE Davids in kindergarten with me way back when, out of a class of only 40-something children!) That can make for a lot of confusion!

You don't say what your beliefs are, but a lot of people choose names from the Bible for their babies. Names such as Elizabeth, Mary, Sarah, and Rebecca are classics and never seem to go out of style, yet you aren't likely to find a big bunch of them in class with you at school. Another option for choosing a new name for yourself would be to talk with your parents (or better yet, grandparents) and learn about family names and family history. You might find your new name that way!

One word of caution about the above suggestion of using the new name you choose for awhile before legally changing it - you need to make sure this will be allowed at your school! I couldn't imagine that it wouldn't, since tons of Elizabeths have gone by Liz, Betsy, Liza, etc., but some school districts and especially private schools have some unusual policies on the books. If the school doesn't have a problem with it, I think the trial run with the new name is a great idea!

One more word of encouragement: I greatly respect and admire your desire to do this, and wish with all my heart that I had changed my own name when I was younger! I have always hated my first name with a passion, and the fact that I did not have a good relationship with the person for whom I was named just made it worse! Go for it, and don't let anybody discourage you!!!

February 8, 2017 7:48 AM
By Dot (not verified)

I completely relate. When I was 13, I hated my name: Dorothy. I thought it sounded ugly and old. I had a lot of anxiety when I was your age, too, and I also didn't speak to many people at school. Two years later, when I was 15, I really started to make friends. They gave me the nickname "Dot," which felt so much more "right," like you say. My family and teachers still called me Dorothy, and I didn't bother to correct them. I just let my friends use my nickname. Then, when I went off to college, I introduced myself to everyone (including professors) as "Dot," and it's what everyone calls me today as an adult. I never sat down and had a formal conversation with my parents about wanting to change my name...I just did it naturally over time. Sometimes they still call me Dorothy, but mostly even my family calls me by my preferred nickname now.

So my advice to you would be this: try out your preferred name (or maybe a nickname that's some version of your real name) with your friends. And then, pick a time of transition to try out introducing yourself as your new name. (I had a friend at camp who went by "Savannah" at home and school, but asked all of us to call her "Danny." So we did!) Maybe try out your new name when you try a new sports team, or when you go to high school.

Chances are, your parents already know that you don't like your name, even without you telling them. My parents always did. Don't sweat the big announcement. Just try out the new name slowly and see how it goes outside of home over time.

On another note, definitely don't worry about the paperwork part--your driver's license and your diploma. Neither of these documents represent who you are as a person. Here's a funny story for you:

My grandmother has always gone by the name Eleanor. She thought her name was Eleanor Rose. When she went to apply for a marriage license, she had to get her birth certificate from her mother. On it, it said her name was Martha Rose. She was like, "Who is Martha Rose!?" And her mother told her that when she was born, she'd named her "Martha Rose," but that her grandmother didn't like the name, and said, "No, we'll call her Eleanor." She lived the first couple of decades of her life not knowing what her real, legal name was! So, see? Paperwork doesn't much matter. (My grandmother later had her name legally changed to Eleanor Rose.)

Good luck to you. It already sounds like you're a pretty self-aware person. Being 13 is really hard because you're still figuring out who you are and who you want to be. Your name is part of that. I hope you feel like yourself really soon. :)

February 22, 2017 4:09 PM
By Ruth Ben-Or (not verified)

They might treat it like "coming out of the closet", sure, they think, you'll outgrow it, who put you up to it anyway and if all else fails, pretend it isn't really happening. I always wanted a middle name but it took me nearly 50 years to make it official, I'm still not sure if my parents know or not but I'm about to use it in public for the 1st time when I get married this year. They may see it as a rejection of them and I did think about giving them some rubbish about having to have an alias because of internet trolls etc (they aren't very savvy with those things) but in the end, being the woman I was meant to be is more important than what they want.

February 22, 2017 4:10 PM
By Ruth Ben-Or (not verified)

PS It's Ruth Caroline Alexandra, in case you wondered.

February 24, 2017 8:30 PM
By Danielle (not verified)

My name is Danielle. My sister has an INCREDIBLY unique name. It's often a conversation starter for her which she hates but I always thought was so cool. I have NEVER felt like "Danielle" suited me. In third grade I started going by my middle name but only some people called me it so it didn't stick. My parents were supportive of me going by my middle name and probably would have been supportive of me going by a different name too. I'm 28 now and I kinda wish I had a different name. I still don't feel like Danielle suits me but too many people call me that. My diplomas and licenses all say Danielle. When I got married and changed my last name it was a nightmare to get all of that changed. If I were you, I'd at least bring it up to your parents. Do it now before it has major lasting effects on you. OR, just tell everyone you meet a different name and when you turn 18 change it and no one will really be the wiser (though this is obviously harder).

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