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A recent blog entry that I read discussing hand-me-downs made me wonder about what it must be like to a younger sibling who receives the bulk of their clothes and/or toys as hand-me-downs, recycled from the older siblings.

As the blog points out, just because a child is the oldest doesn't necessarily mean that they won't get clothing or toys passed down to them from older children (cousins and neighbors were mentioned as being good potential sources), but in a family dedicated to saving and passing on lessons of the importance of recycling and reusing, it seems very likely that the youngest children will get far fewer "new" things.

The larger the family, the more this would seem to be an issue.

Do younger children tend to get frustrated by the idea that the majority of their belongings once belonged to an older sibling? If so, what can we, as parents, do to mitigate this potential source of frustration and/or resentment?

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3 Answers 3

Whether it causes resentment or not depends on how much say the child has in the matter. Kids often borrow their older sibling's clothing on their own. A lot of handing down happens even without parental intervention, as one child starts to grow out of something, they are more and more willing to lend it to their younger sibling, until it ends up de facto belonging to them.

If it's forced on you is when it starts to breed resentment. One way to mitigate that is to make sure their entire wardrobe isn't secondhand. You still save significant money if two or three outfits a week are new, and the child has options for when they want to look their best.

The other thing a lot of parents do is give their kids a veto. You give them a big pile of secondhand clothes to sort through and let them keep the ones they want. That way they feel like they had a choice in the matter. Usually you have to have a try on session anyway to see if they fit.

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I like the veto idea. This is what my parent's did with me with clothes from my brother. It's also the same concept when another family gives you a big bag of clothes "for the kids to sort through". –  ChristopherW Jun 24 '13 at 6:28
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I was the middle one of five kids - and I loved getting hand me downs from my elder brother. (Not so much from my elder sister...)

With my group of friends, my eldest is the eldest of all the kids so he almost never gets hand me downs or cast offs, whereas the others get items from siblings, friends etc - and the good quality clothes might go round 3 or 4 children before they are thrown away.

The younger kids definitely like this - they all tend to want the clothes the older ones have, so if anything, the only one who feels a bit put out is the eldest one - and we placate him by letting him choose some of his new clothes.

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In our house the adults also had hand me downs. For example, our bed belonged to another family member who was getting a smaller one. The trampoline the kids played on belonged to their cousins first. The dressers in our room are the ones one of us used as a child. In that context, it seems perfectly normal for a child to be using something that someone else, especially a family member, used first. Our attic was full of toys "from your cousins" and those same cousins would often be delighted to come over to play with our kids (there's a LARGE age gap) and rediscover their toys. My kids also saw us box up the cloth diapers to send to a younger cousin - and they heard about it when the same diapers headed to yet another cousin afterwards. We also got "hand me ups" when a younger relative outgrew adult-sized skates that fit one of us. My kids see all of this as normal: families share.

Nobody expects you to buy a new couch when you have a second child. The new child uses the same couch, dishes, and so on as the first child, and you can have a similar attitude towards clothes and toys easily enough. If you think the second child is being shortchanged by not getting brand new things, it might foster resentment. If you don't, it probably won't. At least until they start school. An older schoolmate might tease your younger one saying "I remember that sweater" kind of thing. If you're worried about that, don't hand-me-down memorable clothing.

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