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Can A Baby’s Name Bring A Family Closer?

Whether it’s their first child or their nineteenth, some families pick names for their babies with an eye toward creating family unity and harmony. But how well does it work to give all your kids names that start with the same letter or to name one or more of them after Mom, Dad, or another family member?

As with all things baby-naming, there are no hard-and-fast rules, only guidelines. Here are some of the questions you might want to consider, and some ways to help you decide whether the next name you pick will pull you all together or be the seed of future resentment.

Do you want to give all your children related names?

If you like the idea of giving all your children names that relate to one another somehow, it’s best to figure out the connection before you name your first child, rather than when you start thinking about names for your second.

Common ways to relate names include:

  • Use names with the same first letter. You can go one step further and choose names with the same monogram.
    • Example — The Duggar family took the related-name game to all new heights (lows?) using “J” as the first letter for all their children’s names: Joshua, Jana, John-David, Jill, Jessa, Jinger, Joseph, Josiah, Joy-Anna, Jedidiah, Jeremiah, Jason, James, Justin, Jackson, Johannah, Jennifer, Jordyn-Grace and Josie. It’s a good thing X wasn’t their favorite letter!
  • Use names with the same meaning. This is great for families who want a more subtle connection.
    • Example: All these names mean “beloved” — Cara, Morna, Darrell and Thaddeus
  • Use names with the same theme.
    • Examples: All Biblical names or all names from your family tree
  • Use all “nickname” names.
    • Example: Beth, Ricky, Charlie or Addie

Now you’ve got some parameters for how to go about it, but before you embark on a related-name scheme, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you think your kids will feel? Will they love it or hate it? Will they be embarrassed or proud?
  • If you use the same initial as one of the parents, will the parent who has a different initial feel left out?
  • Do you like enough names within the category? Say you plan on only having three children and decide to link them with the letter Q. You love the names Quincy, Quinn and Quentin, but what happens when your third pregnancy turns out to be surprise triplets, and you don’t have any other Q names to choose from?

Name themes can be a lot of fun, but choose carefully and plan for the unexpected.

How do you feel about naming children after their parents?

In some families, it’s a foregone conclusion that the firstborn (usually son) will be named after a parent (usually dad). This is another way to create a closeness within a family — at least between the two linked people — but it can also create challenges for the child who’s sharing a parent’s name.

If you’re considering naming a child after yourself or your partner, consider these questions:

  • Does the other parent agree?
  • Is there an established tradition of naming children after parents in your family?
  • Does the name have nickname potential or will two people in the same house be responding to the same name?
  • Will the child feel too much pressure to emulate the namesake?
  • Will the child struggle to establish a unique identity?
  • Will the child be proud to be a part of a family tradition?
  • Will sharing a name create a special bond between child and parent?
  • Will subsequent children feel less special if they aren’t given a parent’s name (though you could emulate the boxer George Foreman who named all five of his sons George…)

Do you plan to share your name ideas with family and friends before the birth?

One way to make your relatives and/or friends feel connected to your whole birth process is to ask their opinions on the baby’s name. The problem here, of course, is that if you tell people the names you’re considering, you run the risk of having someone tell you they don’t like your picks or even trying to get you to change your mind (and trust us, people always have preferences, and they rarely want to budge).

Proceed with caution!

What would you say if a relative or friend asked you to name your child after him or her?

A lot of people like the idea of passing their name on to another generation, and some won’t be shy about asking you to be the parent that bestows them the honor, even if you hadn’t asked for their input at all! Be ready with a polite response so you’re not caught off guard. Say something along the lines of “We’re still considering lots of names and will be sure to add it to our list.” Then be prepared to have a little talk with them when you ultimately go with a different name.

Should older siblings have a say in baby’s name?

It’s a strange thing for a sibling to suddenly have to understand that there will be a new baby in the house. The anticipation (and eventual reality) can elicit many feelings from older siblings: excitement, anxiety, jealousy, joy and everything in between.

To help with the transition, get them involved in preparations for the new baby’s arrival. One way to do this is by getting input on the baby’s name (input — not final decision, unless you want a name like Unicorn!). That will help them realize that they aren’t going to be forgotten just because there’s a new child on the scene.

The democratic way of deciding is to share a list of top names and then let everyone in the family vote. Or you could go through this Babble name guide together and let everyone choose 2-3 favorites. Then the parents can make the final decision based on the compiled list.

If you don’t want to do that for the first name, you can get sibling input for the middle name where you can be more flexible.
If you don’t want to share naming duties, you could choose a doll and encourage your child to name it — just like you’re doing for the new baby.

How do you feel about using a name you previously gave a pet?

Pets are members of the family, too, but should you name children after them?

To some people that will seem a little odd, but on the other hand, should a great name be off-limits just because you used it for your parakeet when you were 12?

If you were named after the family’s former Chihuahua, would you feel it was a sign of how excited your parents were to have you in their lives, or would you think it was weird that you’re sharing a name with a deceased dog?

There is no right answer here, but give it some careful consideration before resurrecting a name previously used for a pet. And don’t expect to keep secret the history of your baby’s name from your child. At some point, someone is likely to spill the beans.

How important is it that the name reflects your cultural background?

One more general way to bring a family together with a child’s name is to have that name reflect the ethnicity of the family.

A generation or two ago, many people Anglicized names in order to “fit in” to American culture — Leonardo became Leonard and Rosa became Rose. Today, however, more and more parents are heading back to their roots and choosing culturally relevant names for their children. These days, wouldn’t you be more surprised to hear the name Leonard on a playground than you would be to hear Leonardo?

Picking a name based on ethnicity can make one’s extended family feel even more connected to the child. But what do you do if your family is multicultural?

Mixed-culture families can try to choose names that work in all the family backgrounds. Celebrity parents Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen, for example, factored both their cultural backgrounds into their choice, eventually settling on Benjamin Rein for their son because the name is the same in English and Portuguese.

Final Thoughts

You never know how a name will ultimately work out, but in families with a lot of love, they almost always work out for the best.

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