Getting used to a kid's new name

My 5-year-old daughter wants to change her name. My husband and I are all for it (it’s a perfectly legit and very pretty shortening of her “real” name - say her name is “Ella” and she would like to be known as “Ellie”) but I (and most others) keep forgetting and calling her “Ella”.

I know she doesn’t want it to be a some-of-the-time nickname, she wants it to be the way she is known (her little brother, for example, is technically named, say, “Michael”, but is known exclusively as “Mike” - most people have no idea his full name is actually “Michael”.)

She has started to sign her schoolwork “Ellie”, and next year wants to be enrolled in school as “Ellie” (but doesn’t want us to specifically ask her current teacher to change due to self-consciousness… I am considering discreetly mentioning it to her anyway, largely to avoid confusion or puzzlement when she starts noticing the schoolwork signed “Ellie”).

So, does anyone have any tips on how to make the transition? How do you ask people who have known her as “Ella” to change? How do I make the change in my own head? Is she too old for it to work? Any anecdotes from someone who has successfully done this? Or unsuccessfully for that matter?


Wanted to add, maybe “Katharine” is a better example of her name, and she wants to be “Katie”… Like “Katharine”, her real name also allows for the more grown-up “Kate” type verson if she decides “Katie” is too babyish in a few years.

When I was five I found out my name was not Jamie, as I’d always been called, but James.

I was then very insistent that everyone use my real name. My parents just tried it and tried it until it stuck. As for my peers and at school: I did all the work to get it changed, as only a shouty five-year-old can. It worked fine and probably took a month to stick (though now I’m Jim).

Tell her not to respond when you accidentally call her the old name. Of course, that wouldn’t be a good idea with teachers and some other people, but should be fine for most family members.

I don’t know how your school works, but in my neck of the woods you have to register kids under their full legal name. Any nicknames will get sorted out on the first day.

Thanks for the tips! Yeah, I don’t think we could technically “enrol” her new name, I more meant she wants to officially start off the next school year with the new name.

jjimm, how did you make the transition to Jim when you got older?

“I like to be called Ellie.” Or, if you are the one speaking “She likes to be called Ellie. We think that is such a cute name.” Set the example of saying it graciously and with a smile, even if you are repeating it several times to the same person and let her know that’s expected of her. There’s not really much more to it.

For her next special occasion, her birthday or if you do Christmas, Christmas, maybe find some gifts that you can personalize with her new name. You can find things like kids’ backpacks or overnight bags, towels, pens and pencils, notecards, Santa hat/stocking, jewelry or keepsake box, magnets, Teddy bears, those signs that say “Ellie’s room” etc. If you have a particularly recalcitrant grandparent, maybe spring for the personalized picture frame for the next picture of “Ellie and Mike.”

I was a little older (maybe 7?) when I decided I wanted to go by a shortened version of my name…akin to “Dig” instead of “Digital.” I remember training my parents was hard, and involved not answering to my full name. It took a month or so. I spent another month before that just asking them to use the new name, and it never worked. I had to reinforce it with actions.

I don’t remember if I had any trouble with friends…maybe they already used the short version.

I did it by picking my transition points - i.e. I switched with college (actually before then, but I didn’t bother to correct old friends). Over time, most of my childhood friends left my life and my current friends have only ever known me by my current name. (I went from a diminutive to my full name) My family still uses the old nickname - particularly the aunts that I don’t see often.

She probably doesn’t want to wait that long, so you are just going to need to correct yourself. Make sure to spend some time thinking about her every day with the new nickname. When I get home, I need to make sure Ellie gets her homework done and I think I’ll ask Ellie to pick up the living room. I wonder if Ellie would like to see one of her friends this weekend."

I switched my nickname at the beginning of my junior year of high school. That way all of the teachers just knew me as the new version.

My old friends and family still call me by the old nickname, alas. There was just nothing to do about it.

We didn’t light upon a nickname for my daughter until she was about five months old. Old habits run deep, and we still alternate what we call her, though in the family circle we’re far more likely to use the nickname. It took maybe six weeks to get used to it.

Not my choice: that was what my friends insisted on calling me when I went to uni, and eventually it stuck. Some of my high school friends still call me James, but most made the transition over several years.

ETA: I’d kinda like to be James again now I’m in my forties. More dignified.

For the first 19 years of my life, I went by a nickname - two different spellings, but pronounced the same, so that change then was no biggie. Then I left home and dated a guy who didn’t like nicknames, and he called my by my given name, which all of a sudden, I decided I liked. So from them on (that was late 1973) I started going by the name on my birth certificate. There are still family members and a couple of friends who use the old nickname, 38 years later.

So the short answer is, sometimes people don’t get used to it at all! :wink:

I was never able to make Drew stick. I was always Andy, no matter what. I even tried a new job as Drew and as soon as people find out it’s short for Andrew, it goes back to Andy

My uncle grew up using his (very stodgy-sounding) middle name, and as a teenager decided that he would use a diminutive of his first name instead. So he went from “Awful Cringeworthy Name” to “Bill”.

I was saddled with using my (old-fashioned sounding) middle name as a child also, but was inspired by “Uncle Bill” and changed to my first name as a teenager, too. I spent about 3 months announcing that a name-change was in the pipeline. ("Starting September 1st, I’ll be going by my first name, “Sara”) Then, upon starting a new school year, I started introducing myself with my “new” name, politely correcting classmates and reminding my family. My mother took a LOT of reminding.

After about 6 months, I simply stopped responding to the old name. After another few months, the old name was all but forgotten. So it took about a year from start to finish, in my case.

I did this when I was 8 years old and transferring to a new school. I have an unusual first name and a more common / pronounceable middle name, so I had everyone (family, friends, teachers) use my middle name. I wrote my middle name on all my school papers and my teachers used my middle name exclusively. However, I suspect that my first name was on the formal school enrollment paperwork.

It was a lot easier than you might think–just tell your daughter’s teachers that she goes exclusively by Ellie, and they should fall in line.

When I went to HS I transitioned back, because I was afraid that it would cause paperwork complications if I continued to use a different name from my legal one. And at that point I no longer cared if people mispronounced my first name.

This thread reminded me of a coworker about 15 years ago or so who legally changed his first name. His original first name was associated with a different ethnicity from his surname, and his new first name was an ethnic match. Along with the name change, he had extensive dental work done that changed his appearance drastically. Sadly, with the new looks and new name emerged a new asshole of a personality. Lucky for me, I transferred away from there shortly after the name change. And I still think of him with the old name.

My parents still call me by my birth name and not my nickname (which is really my first and middle smooshed together). It used to annoy me, but then I decided that was a privilege only my parents could have.

I was going to say this – parents get a pass, because they were the ones who named you in the first place. My Mom really does call me Ellie (not as an example, she actually calls me Ellie), even though that’s not my name, and not what everyone else calls me. I was surprised one day when one of her co-workers said to me, “Nice to meet you, Ellie,” until I realized that he only knew me by what my Mom said.

I remember when I was in elementary school, a teacher would occasionally make an announcement to the class that someone wanted to be known by a different name from now on. I remember my friend Amy decided to be known by her middle name, Louise. That one didn’t stick at all – in fact I had forgotten it until this thread.

OTOH, my Mom has a fairly common name with a slightly unusual spelling. I always thought her Mom had chosen to spell it that way for a particular reason, and even thought of my Mom’s name a little differently because of the spelling. Not long ago, I was discussing this with my Mom, and she told me that in fact her birth certificate has the traditional spelling. When she was twelve, she thought it would be cooler to use the unusual spelling, and she just switched it herself. It’s been that way ever since, and now her driver’s license, etc. all use the new spelling.

On the first day of first grade, my son, who was always called Charlie up to that point and was listed as “Charlie” on the roll, raised his hand and said to the teacher, “Excuse me, but I prefer Charles.” He was so grave and matter of fact about it that everyone at school called him Charles from there on out. I wasn’t there, but his godmother was and she called me right away to ask when Charlie started going by Charles. It was the first I’d heard of it.

We told him, as his parents we weren’t likely to stop calling him Charlie and neither were most of the people he already knew, but that I would introduce him in the future as Charles. 7 years later most everyone calls him Charles and he’s very happy. Long time friends and family call him Charlie and he doesn’t mind.

Both of my brothers started out being called the diminutive of their given names. At some point they decided they would prefer the standard nickname without the ending (think Mike instead of Mikey). Around home they just stopped responding to the diminutive and Mom and Dad got used to it. I don’t know how it worked at school, but I would think it might have developed over time, as they grew up. That actually might have been easier than for your Ellie.

There was one relative and the slightly not-with-it pastor’s wife who were given a pass, just because it would have been more trouble than it was worth to fight it.