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by Abigail Van Buren

Old Animosity May Be Behind Mom's Request for New Name

DEAR ABBY: This concerns the letter from "No New Name in Oregon," the teen-ager whose mother suddenly decided to have the child's last name changed to her maiden name. You missed the boat on that one, Abby.

I'm a former lawyer who has dealt with many parents in divorce situations. When the desire to change a child's last name comes from the divorced parent rather than the child, the desire is usually a disguised policy or emotional statement from the parent.

The teen-ager told you she had recently gotten to know her dad's side of the family. Shortly afterward, the mother announced that the child should have her (the mother's) name for "convenience, clarity, a sense of unity." Since the teen didn't mention any instances of recent inconvenience or confusion because of the different names, my reaction was that the mother very likely felt threatened, and wanted to send a message to the world that "she's mine" -- and to the ex, "You can't have her!"

Parents should work out their emotions related to divorce in counseling, not in the divorce courts or by using their children.

"No New Name in Oregon" should know that her name is HERS. She should be allowed to lovingly tell her mother, "I love you very much, and will always be yours regardless of my name. However, I am used to my name and don't want to change it at this late date."

Abby, I felt that the girl was asking you for help in standing firm against her mother, and reassurance that it was OK to be herself, to keep a name that was meaningful to her, regardless of her mother's needs. I wish you had affirmed that her name, now and always, is a matter of HER choice and desires, and NOT a matter on which she should be pressured by others. In fact, the "others" -- including her mother -- should respect her daughter's needs, feelings and decisions.

Although it's not proper or desirable for a minor to urge her mother into counseling, you, Abby, are in a position to urge adults everywhere to examine their motives, and suggest that, if their behavior is influenced by the fallout from a divorce, counseling can be helpful no matter how long ago the divorce was finalized. -- SHELLEY BRENNEMAN CARTER, STANFORD, ILL.

DEAR SHELLEY: You analyzed the mother's motives more shrewdly than I did -- and if you're correct, they are deplorable. Of course, the girl has the right to retain her father's name if she wishes, since one's name goes to the core of one's identity.

I agree there appear to be some unresolved issues about the divorce that the mother hasn't dealt with, and that need resolution. That's more important than any name change.

DEAR ABBY: Would you please pass on this suggestion to help make losing one's wallet a bit more endurable:

The next time you are near a photocopy machine, lay the contents of your wallet (other than cash and photographs) on it, and make a copy of them.

Then, should your wallet be lost or stolen, you will have all the numbers handy to report the loss. -- CREDIT COUNSELOR IN NEW YORK

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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