Once you find out that you’re pregnant, you have so much to do. You have to go to all of your OB appointments, plan your baby’s nursery, and most importantly, think up a name. But not just any name. You’ll need one that reflects your family’s history, your culture—and yes, it has to be a name that you love, too. So when your little one arrives and people take the name you cherish and so painstakingly chose, (and give your kiddo a nickname instead), it can be very upsetting, especially if it’s a nickname that you don’t like. So what should you do when people give your child a nickname? You might need to consider the source.
What’s in a name? Well, a lot, especially if it’s for your sweet babe. “Names have so much meaning,” says Audrey Hope, a relationship expert and trauma therapist. “They carry vibrations and frequencies and your destiny can truly be affected by it.” And if it’s Grandma who gives your baby a new name, then there’s a good chance that it might stick—and you’ll be stuck with it.
But first, you need to understand why someone would choose to give your child a nickname in the first place. More often than not, it has nothing to do with the person’s opinion of the name you chose, but rather the bond that they wish to create with your child. “There can be many reasons why family or friends give each other nicknames – convenience, love, or even a change in the environment like shifting from one country to another,” says Amy Olson, a relationship expert. Typically, though, a child is given a nickname as an expression of love, and a way for that person (whether it’s a grandparent, an aunt, or your BFF) to create a special bond with your baby.
And it’s important to keep in mind that there are some names that are just begging for a nickname. Longer names are often shortened for brevity, but also as a way to create a connection with your kiddo. So when you’re coming up with a name for your baby, it’s a good idea to think about the potential nicknames that could come from it. (Think Abby for Abigail, or Johnny for Jonathan, for example.)
Still, even if someone you care about bestows a nickname upon your child and you don’t like it, you should feel free to say something. Be warned, it might be a challenging conversation to have, though. “It can be extremely tricky to correct your family especially when you love them,” says Olson. “But most times, not being defensive and telling them politely how you don’t prefer your child being called by any other names other than what you have given her, works.” And if you get a little pushback, you might need to be clearer that your kiddo’s nickname isn’t working for them — or you. Just keep in mind that timing is of the essence; after all, you don’t want to wait years to discuss the nickname after it’s already stuck. “Never keep silent about a name that does not sit well with you,” advises Hope. “If you nip in the bud early, the name won’t stick.” You can explain why you don’t like the name (i.e. maybe it reminds you of someone or something unpleasant, or you don’t want to create confusion with your child as to what their name really is) to offer a framework for why you would prefer that the person stops using it.
As your child gets older, they can always decide if they like their nickname or want it dropped. “You should not let your family or friends call your little one with weird nicknames because you never know whether or not the grown-up version of your child will appreciate it,” says Olson. Adds Hope: “It matters what you are called. It has spiritual soul meaning for your whole life.”
There are sweet nicknames and there are also negative ones as well. Ultimately, unless the nickname really, really bothers you or your kid, you should accept it for what it is — an expression of love for your child.