One of the exciting parts of pregnancy is starting to plan and envision your future child. You may wonder what color hair they will have, or whether they have your sense of humor. One of the few things in your control is your child's name. This can be one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking, and difficult decisions you may face during pregnancy. It’s an important decision that your child will carry with them forever.
Names can carry a lot of emotional significance. Whether it’s a family name, a name you had always envisioned for your child, or a name from one of your favorite characters, it can hold a lot of meaning. Some initial considerations may be – will this name be accepted by other kids at school? Will it look good on a job resume? What are the potential nicknames? Does the first, middle, and last name sound nice together? These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when making this decision.
A name can truly shape one’s identity, so it’s a decision that comes with a lot of weight. Many parents turn to cultural or familial influences when considering name choices. Parents and ancestors can be great sources of inspiration for choosing a name, or a significant name from one’s culture or religion. There is also the opportunity to choose a middle name, which can carry its own significance and tradition.
There are always going to be some practical, linguistic considerations when choosing a baby name. Does it sound nice with your surname? Is the pronunciation or spelling difficult? What will their initials be? What nicknames could be used? Does the name imply a certain gender? Parents will need to decide if they want a classic, popular name, or something more unique.
Very unique baby names, whether they stand out in terms of their sound or spelling, have a certain allure. Celebrities have been pioneering this trend for years, opting for names like "Apple" or "Gravity" that certainly draw attention.
While it's tempting to give your child a name that's truly one-of-a-kind, it's crucial to consider how the world will react. Children, in particular, can be brutally honest, and this honesty can sometimes take the form of teasing if they struggle to pronounce or relate to a highly unusual name.
Some parents prefer to stick with classic, timeless names, and that's a valid choice. However, there's room to strike a balance between uniqueness and practicality. If you opt for a popular name like John or Jack, your child may share their name with several other classmates, leading to confusion. Finding a name that's distinctive yet doesn't pose challenges can be the ideal compromise.
If you do choose a unique name that you know will come with some raised eyebrows, it’s important to prepare your child. Explain the potential for teasing and teach your child how to respond. There is a book called Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes that actually deals with this exact topic, so it could be a good starting point. Teasing and bullying are unfortunately natural parts of growing up, and in the long run, navigating it can help build a child’s self-esteem and resilience.
Share with your child why you chose the name you did, and encourage positive associations with the name. If your child loves their name, they will be equipped to respond to bullies properly.
Unfortunately, there is such a thing as name-based discrimination. Studies have found that when applying for jobs, candidates with unique or unusual names are not called back as often as candidates with “normal” names. This is often a form of racial discrimination, because names that are traditionally from Black or Asian cultures have been less favored, according to one report by the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and another from the NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research).
The silver lining is that there are legal protections against this issue. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits such discrimination at a federal level. If you, your child, or any loved one ever feels they are being discriminated against at work based on their name, they should file a charge with the EEOC. It’s important for you and your family to know your rights and address any discrimination during the job application process.
Cultural and familial influences play a significant role in choosing a name. Different cultures have unique naming practices and customs, each with its own meaning. Many parents choose names that reflect their cultural heritage, ensuring that their child's name carries on their roots.
Family names and naming patterns are another aspect to consider. Some families have a tradition of naming the firstborn son after the paternal grandfather, for example. This tradition not only honors the past but also strengthens family bonds across generations.
When choosing a name, think about how it aligns with your cultural and familial values. Does it pay tribute to your heritage or celebrate a family tradition? The name you select can be a bridge between the past, present, and future. As time passes and traditions change, however, it’s important to reconsider your family’s values. Is this a tradition you consider very important to pass on? Do you think your future child could be unhappy with sharing their name with family members? It’s important to consider all perspectives.
There are many sources out there to inspire baby name ideas. Books, websites, and apps for name suggestions are all available. You can also seek input from friends and family, but remember that you have the final say. Don’t let a family member bully you into choosing a name if you don’t feel it’s right. Once you make a list of ideas and inspiration, you can start narrowing down your options, and get feedback from your loved ones if you so choose.
Selecting a name for your child is an important decision. It is the first gift you give your child as they enter the world, and can be a point of pride or pain as they move through life. Consider all aspects of choosing a name such as family values, traditions and culture, religion, and how they will be treated by the outside world. If the name you choose feels right for you and your child, then it’s right. This is an important responsibility, but should be a joyous one.