Q: I want to legally change our daughter’s name. No one pronounces it correctly and I think it’s going to cause her more problems as she gets older. My husband doesn’t want to, however. He says that changing it will confuse her. She’s nineteen months old, for crying out loud! If she’s confused for a week or two, so what? She’ll get over it. What do you think?
A: I think she’s nineteen months old, for crying out loud! I think if she’s confused for a week or two, so what? She’ll get over it. That’s what I think, and I am an expert concerning this topic.
Before I was born, my parents called me “the Bobo.” Talk about a trauma! When I was born, and they saw that I was male, they began calling me Mister Bobo. I was Mister Bobo or just Bobo until I went to school. I will forever remember Day One. My mother and I were sitting in the principal’s office.
The principal asked, “What shall we call him?”
My mother looked at me. She was sad, I could tell. She looked back at the principal, put her hand on my arm, and said, “I’d like you to call him John.”
John? Adding to my trauma, my mother referred to the toilet as the “Johnny.” I don’t need to explain why I went into psychology, now do I? Isn’t it enough that I don’t know my name is John until the first day of first grade? Oh, no! Now, after five halcyon years being Bobo, my mother re-names me after something virtually unmentionable! Oh, the ignominy!
If I can survive that with my sanity intact, your daughter will do just fine with her new name. Just remember, however, Bobo’s already taken.
Q: My first marriage dissolved when our son — who’s very sweet and happy – was just shy of three. He hasn’t seen his father since and never asks about him. The child support checks abruptly stopped a couple of months ago and I subsequently learned he committed suicide. I suppose I should tell my son, who is now seven, that his father is dead, but should I tell him he took his own life?
When it comes to giving a child information of a “sensitive” nature, the operative rule is “Tell a child ONLY what he NEEDS to know and ONLY when he NEEDS to know it.”
Applying that rule to the situation at hand, an argument can be made that your son doesn’t even need to know his father is dead. Given the fact that he never asks about him, I think you could wait until he’s older, even a teenager. Even then, there is no point in telling your son the specifics of his father’s demise. You risk nothing by leaving that out. You risk something by adding it.
Visit family psychologist John Rosemond’s website at johnrosemond.com; readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org; due to the volume of mail, not every question will be answered.