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Stuck in Hand-Me-Downs

Aug 30, 2017 10:08AM ● By Don Short

I want to get rid of these overalls.

I grew up on a farm in Northwestern Ohio. My dad was a farmer similar to several of my relatives that also lived in the area. Both of my parents came from large families and decided to have a large family of their own. My mom had eight children, seven of which were boys. I had five older brothers and one younger one. I have one sister who is one year older than I.

What do you think happens when you have five older brothers? You end up with a lot of hand-me-downs! We were a poor family and I know that my parents did the very best to provide for and take care of all of us. All of our basic needs were met, but for each of us, developing and finding our own individuality can be a challenge. The hand-me-downs one has to deal with, the more problematic this process can become. The only two things that I remember that were specifically mine are a book about a fox and a hen and also a teddy bear that squeaks when you squeezed it. I still have this teddy bear and I think it represents one of the few things that I received as a child that I didn’t have to share with my siblings. It was mine and still is. 

The worst hand-me-down item that I remember and the one I hated the most was a pair of bibbed overalls. The thing that I hated most about them was that they seemed impossible to outgrow. If they started to feel tight, all mom would do was adjust the suspenders and they would seem to fit better. I wanted a new pair of pant that would be my own. Not adjustable overalls that I hated. I felt stuck! When can I finally get some new pants that are mine! Many of you understand what I am talking about. I am talking about pants here, but there are many things that are parents hand down to us, some good and some bad. The good things tend to stick to us like teflon and the bad things tend to stick to us like velcro. 

Examples of good hand-me-downs may include:

1. Teaching us to be loving and caring.

2. Being respectful to others.

3. How to communicate and solve problems in a healthy way.

Examples of bad hand-me-downs may include:

1. Anxiety and fear.

2. Bitterness and resentment.

3. Addiction.

4. Anger and prejudice.


1. We need to get rid of the bad hand-me-downs we received from our parents. I picked up a lot of anxiety from my father and throughout my life I have worked to rid myself from it and to make sure that I do not pass it on to my children.

2. We need to actively seek to hand down good and positive things to our children and grandchildren.

Financial constraints can still necessitate the handing down of toys and clothes. In other areas, we as parents have greater choices. In the areas of emotional and social hand-me-downs let’s choose wisely what we pass on to our children. If you feel stuck in your “hand-me-downs”, consider counseling, as it can be a great way to help you leave those bad or negative hand-me-downs behind.


Don Short is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). His practice focuses on clients with marriage, relationship and family issues. To learn more contact 337-781-4565 or

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