“Mommy, Are You Happy?”

In this episode: Janet responds to an email from the mother of an almost-3-year-old boy who has started asking if she is happy, usually after he’s done something wrong. This mom admits that she does freely show her emotions “because I think that is a healthy thing,” but she doesn’t want her son to be so concerned about her reactions and moods.


Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. Hello Janet,

    Thank you so much for all the guidance that you give! While not always easy, I find this approach to parenting so rewarding!

    I have been listening to your podcast episode ‘Mommy, Are You Happy?’ and it has prompted a question for me.

    Through out my entire teenage and adult life I have struggled with depression and anxiety. I have learned over the years to manage it and have wonderful support from family, friends and medical professionals. However, there are some days when I just do not cope as well as I would like. How should I address this with my son (he is 1 year old). These ‘big emotions’ are a reality of my life, and no matter how ‘well controlled’ they are, I will always have days when they become pervasive. As my son gets older and potentially starts to ask about it, how should I respond.

    I know to be careful to make sure that he knows that he is not the cause of these emotions and to try my best to respond to him in an unemotional way. However, how do I explain to him that sometimes I am just sad, and that there is no cause (other than brain chemistry) for that sadness?

    1. Hi Ashley – My pleasure! Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. You sound like a wonderful mom and I’m sorry to hear that you struggle with depression. I would frame this as an illness you have that makes you sad from time to time no matter what. In the moment, you might say something like: “I’m having a hard day today. My illness is making me a little sad. But I always, always love you.” Later when he’s older and you sense he’s ready, you could explain depression a bit more. I would also say something to him now when you are sad, like, “I’m a little sad today. You’re probably noticing. I love you so much.” Later it might be good to share with him how you are coping with feelings like anxiety. For example, “I’m feeling uncomfortable and anxious, so I’m going to take some deep breaths,” or “do my meditation,” or whatever. That usually helps me feel better.” I shared more on this topic in this post: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2011/05/should-we-share-our-feelings-with-babies/

      Take care and please be kind and patient with yourself!

  2. Just wondering how I can listen to this? I’m a technophobe!!

  3. My 2.5 year old son asks if we’re happy all the time. But he’s also preoccupied with asking if characters in a book or in a tv cartoon are happy as well (when they’re clearly sad). And when I tell him it looks like the character is sad, he repeats the question (‘are they happy?’) louder as if he refuses to believe the character is sad. He’s clearly uncomfortable with it. I’ve explained that it’s ok to be sad, and it’s ok to cry and I’m empathetic when he’s sad too. What’s more troubling is that when he’s crying and in the middle of a tantrum, he’ll say he’s happy and force a smile when he’s clearly not! Not sure where this is coming from or what else to do…

  4. So how do we teach them emotions, if we are not allowed to show anger or get angry with them for example?

    Will that not teach them that anger should be suppressed? Or is that a good thing? I feel like by me telling my son “I feel angry now” has allowed him to say the same when he is feeling angry. It’s a good thing being able to verbalise your feelings so you don’t need to act out with them with things like hitting and violence for example? I guess you want to show them that you can learn to control anger but, sometimes anger does have to be verbalised (in a constructive way) so its not internalised?

    Wholeheartedly agree that you shouldn’t be angry and snappy with your kid on the regular. But you say it’s okay to show our kids that we are happy, why is that the only feeling that they are allowed to see/experence? Isn’t that what our generations above us did to us, taught us to suppress emotions? Is that the goal?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More From Janet

Books & Recommendations