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?


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".
    – SomeShinyObject
    Jun 24 '13 at 6:28
  • Veto is always what my parents did too, though they never portrayed it that way. It was always just 'Hey grab anything out of this box that you want before we take it to good will.' Aug 21 '17 at 20:47

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.


I am the youngest of four children. I found, especially when I was younger, that it was not an issue when I got hand me downs. The issues arise when I got older and started, not only being self-conscious and wanting to develop my own style, but by my growing awareness of things.

I didn't mind clothes being handed down if they were in nice condition because my older brother had gotten hand me downs from my oldest brother. I really didn't care about my sister getting new clothes because she was a girl and that made sense.

I had issues with hand me downs when I noticed that all three of my siblings had all had something new and then I was stuck with the old stuff. When I went off to college, while both of my brothers and my sister had gotten new dorm bedding and new everything for their dorm rooms, I was given some old, stained bed sheets and the comforter had a hole in it.

Aside from the obvious annoyance that the items were in poor condition, I was more annoyed that my parents were treating me differently.

With that said, hand me downs aren't bad, but make sure that you are fair with all of your children. If you have five kids and all of them except the youngest are being bought new things, that would create resentment because it can seem like there ia favoritism and inequality


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.


"what can we, as parents, do to mitigate this potential source of frustration and/or resentment?"

Avoid taking the younger siblings along if/when buying new clothes/toys for the older siblings.

I have an older sister and got to wear almost all of her clothes as soon as she overgrew them. However, I remember that I was resentful of her getting new clothes all the time, which I never did. Looking back, I now think it was because of my parents' wrong approach. Oftentimes my mother would take both of us along when buying new things for my sister, and used to say something along the lines of: "Oh look, this dress is so nice, and it looks so good on your sister. You'll also get to wear it in two years' time". Two years' time sounds like an eternity to a small child! Of course it was useless for me to point out that they have the same dress in smaller size as well...


One way to think about all economic decisions of this sort that generate some slight unfairness, is that you want to insure the children understand the tradeoffs. They are intelligent, and willing to take one for the team, as long as one takes the time to explain it to them.

If you acknowledge the issue and make some sort of amend, like an extra ice cream cone a year, for the kid that only gets used clothes, then it can be turned from a problem into a cute family tradition.

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