We are in the final stages of adopting kids ranging from ages 7-12. The question has come up a time or two about last names, namely if they should keep their last names, or if we should give them ours, or perhaps a hyphenated name. What I would like to know is, what are the pros and cons of these 3 options, and how much should we involve the kids in the decision?

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    Have you asked the children their thoughts on the matter? My adopted sister wanted a change but still wanted some piece of her former self so she kept her given name as a middle name and went with the family name for her last name and chose a COmPLETELY new first name for herself to go by. Since your kids are old enough to know about the change, it seems as though their opinion should at least be considered Nov 19, 2012 at 14:38
  • I agree with @balancedmama - at that age I'd ask the kids what they thought on the matter, and respect their opinion. That said, having them take on your last name may lead to a sense of being 'closer'.
    – Doc
    Feb 27, 2014 at 22:43

3 Answers 3


By adopting a child you are saying that you are taking that child as your own, so you should change the name. Not doing so will segregate the family more and could cause the child to think that they are not a true part of the family.

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    Do you feel that the children should be asked for their opinion? Jul 8, 2011 at 6:57
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    And by changing the name they might feel that you are forcing them and that you are severing their links to their earlier life. So it's not that easy. Nov 19, 2012 at 7:31
  • I know this is an old (almost archaeological) post. The son of a friend of mine, son of a firefighter who died in the line of duty, chose to keep his birth surname when he was adopted. The name is a point of pride for him, and his choice to keep his birth name a point of pride for both of his parents.
    – pojo-guy
    Jan 2, 2019 at 22:10

Let each kid decide.

I changed my last name when I was ten and my mother remarried. I got to make the decision myself, and I don't think I did the wrong decision. And don't forget to consider the names themselves in the decision. Unusual names have their benefit as you get less mixups, and names should be easy to pronounce in many countries (ie no weird characters and few 'R's.)

But in regards to your question, the only drawback with having a different name from the rest of the family is confusion, people wonder why your kids have a different last name. I believe that was a big part of my older sisters decision to change, she initially kept the old name.

Other than that there is no particular drawback to having a different last name from your parents, and the only drawback with a hyphenated name is that it's long and confuses the people who make up usernames on company computer systems. :-) Although that could be seen as a benefit... Hyphenated names also sound fancy.

So I think you can let the kids make that decision themselves. At least assuming the new names doesn't end up embarrassing them. Both McDonald and Berger are fine last names, but McDonald-Berger is a bit unfortunate. :-)

It's also a good thing to let them feel they have control over their own lifes. And if they are unsure, they can always just keep their current names for the time being, and change later.

  • Thanks for the info. I was planning on talking with my kids before making the decision, but I want to know what the pros and cons each way. Apr 2, 2011 at 21:00
  • I wonder how the last names will work with my kids then, my wife kept her Chinese name (considering my last name is longer than her's written in English). One son has her last name, the other has mine, so at least we have some connection though as brothers they will have different last names.
    – MichaelF
    Jul 8, 2011 at 11:41

Adopted children should be treated the same as the rest of the family. I would explain that to them and get their agreement before doing it. It would really help them feel like they joined your family.

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