Life Advice



Ask Amy: After abuse, mom ponders name change

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: I have two children, ages 5 and 10. I have been a single mother for the past four years after a decade of abuse from their father and a resulting restraining order. The court awarded me sole custody of the children.

Unfortunately, both children have their father’s last name.

I’m ready to move forward with changing their last names to my surname because I am their mother and sole caregiver.

The 5-year-old was too young to remember his father and is as excited as a 5-year-old can be about the change, but the 10-year-old has mixed feelings.

I think it’s better to do this change sooner rather than later, though I am cautious of the identity conflict a name change can bring.

– Matriname


Dear Matriname: You state that you want to move forward with this name change because you are your sons’ mother and sole caregiver, but your decision here should be more about them and less about you.

I agree that your 10-year-old’s feelings should very much be taken into account as you make this decision. Discuss this with him privately, and maintain an attitude of patient listening. He has already lost a lot, and holding onto his name might be his way of trying to stem the tide of these losses to maintain his own sense of normalcy. Keep in mind that children of abusive parents often find ways to continue to love and long for them.

Your older son may worry that if he loses his father’s name, he will finally and forever lose his father.

Do not drag their father as you discuss this, but emphasize that you would like all three of you to share the same surname.


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