How to Connect When Your Children Have a Different Last Name
Sometimes You Don’t Have a Family Name and That’s Okay
I love home decor, I really do. I still have to stick to wood, stone, or any other durable material, however, as things still get broken way too easily in my house. So this usually means a lot of cute signs, frames, and trinkets. One of my favorites, when I see them, is the “Smith Family est. 2013” in a cute font on a pretty sign to hang by the front door (inside, don’t post names on the outside of your house for safety reasons.) I almost yearn for one of these signs as proof that we are a whole and complete family. Not that a sign proves anything, of course. I know that. I still want it, but I can’t. My kids have their father’s last name. When we married I took his last name and put it before my maiden name in a sort of non-hyphenated hyphenated style last name. So while I have my kids’ last name within my name, it isn’t my last name.
And I know many single moms are the same way. Many revert back to just their maiden name (rant on the term “maiden name” possibly coming later.) or remarry and take a new name. And more often than not the kids’ names remain the same. This is not always the case of course, but often it is. So how do we fill that little hole in our hearts that says “we’re different” when we have a different last name?
When Last Names are More Than Just A Name
We put so much care into choosing our children’s names that it can be difficult when we suddenly don’t have the same surname anymore. Children may also struggle and often forget that mom suddenly has a new last name. They may not feel like they are a family anymore. It is important to explain that change can be difficult, but families don’t have to be all the same. This is the same for color, race, religion, and even names. Sometimes our differences are what make us unique but it doesn’t have to change the dynamic you already have together.
If it helps, remind your child of the time they went through the phase where everyone had to call them “peanut butter” or something else ridiculous that they absolutely insisted on. Names are important, but they are important no matter what they are. Mommy’s name is special to her and the kids’ names are still special to her, even though they are different. This way you do not diminish the importance of their name (and their father’s name) while showing them your name is special too. Break out the family tree or make one! Show them how even our grandparents have a different last name, but it’s still important, and they are still family. And they still carry on the generations that come before them, whether it’s the same name or not.
Reduce Stress During Emergencies
As quoted in this Huffpost article, “As you can imagine, it can be a recipe for disaster. “When emergencies arise and Mom’s or Dad’s last name is different than the kids’, it can cause unnecessary confusion and critical delays. Medical files alphabetized under the wrong last name or school personnel reluctant to release a child to a parent with a different surname are a few of the potential difficulties,” Utt-Grubb says.” To best avoid these potential delays it is important to PLAN and REITERATE.
Anywhere that has a record of your child’s name should also make note that your name is different. Insist that it is noted in their file and yours, so no matter where they look, the information is there. Once the change is made make sure to also follow up a week or two later to make sure the changes are in the relevant files.
As for your child, if they are old enough, teach them your new name. Or you can even teach them “My mommy’s used to be *****, but now it’s *****” This way they are informed and know how to correctly pass on information emergency responders may need. Don’t stress it too much, try to make it a fun game. Keep quizzing them at random fun times to see if they’ve memorized it.
So maybe my family can’t get a “Smith Family Est. 2010” sign to look cute in our home. But there are tons of other fun things to remind each other how great your family is. There are thousands of signs with a thoughtful quote about family and what it means. I made a mermaid sequins board in a frame and we can “draw” pictures or leave messages to each other on it. I’d love to do a family photo project. Like a big photo collage of all of us. Something the kids and I can put together as a family. You can also do something with your first names if you have a different last name. Make a cute sign stenciling on your first names and hang it in the entry. Maybe stamp your favorite thing next to your name? It could be loads of fun and a great keepsake.
It can be a difficult time during and following a divorce. If you’ve always been a single mom and your kids have their father’s name, then they’ve probably never known any different, and it probably makes it a bit easier. But if you name changes, for whatever reason, and at whatever point, the important thing is to prepare your kids so they aren’t blindsided. Talk about it during the process so they can get used to the idea. They might not be super happy about it, but they will come around. Focus on the importance of family and that each name in and of its own is important. You’re still together as a family, you’ve navigated the potential problems that can arise, and you’re just as loving as before even with a different last name.
If you have any other tips that can help, please leave them in a comment below!
Check out our other post explain why Being a Single Mom Actually Rocks!