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My Daughter Learns the Difference between Happiness and Cake

By Megan Blandford - 3rd October 2011

"Mummy, I’m sad,’" my three-year-old said to me.

"What’s making you feel sad?’
" I sat down next to her and asked. ‘Ummm,’ she said, and I could see the confusion in her eyes as she tried to find the words to answer. Despite her knowledge of hundreds of words, and her almost constant state of conversation, you realise how limited a child’s speech is in moments like these.

After a minute of thought, she came to a conclusion: "Cake," she said. "Cake? Did cake make you sad?" I tried not to laugh - until she realised her mistake, that is. "No," she said. "Cake will make me happy!"

If life were that simple I’d bake a cake every day and keep my family in the fullness of happiness.

Happiness is the current obsession with my daughter. She talks a lot about being happy and sad, and role-plays these emotions with her toys. I listen as she has her toys feel sad after they hit each other, and then have a cuddle to feel happy again.

If she could read newspapers, websites and blogs, she would know she is not alone in being confused about this concept. In fact, she’d realise she’s actually trying to find the answer to that universal question: What Is Happiness?

Emotions are powerful things, and they’re downright complicated in the hands of a young child. The problem is, there isn’t anything basic about emotions, yet young children can’t grasp their intricacies. As parents we try to help explain it, all the while wondering if we’re saying the right thing to set our kids up for an emotionally healthy life. Because let’s face it, we’re often just as confused about the whole thing,

The two most common emotional questions I ask my daughter are: "Why are you sad?" and "What will make you feel happy again?"

I like to think that the combination of these questions shows her that firstly, it’s okay to feel sad and it’s good to acknowledge that, and secondly, let’s not dwell on the sadness, focusing instead on how to resolve it. I’m no psychologist or expert, relying instead on instinct and what fits with the situation, and I guess time will tell if this approach is right.

But recently I’ve realised that I never ask about her emotions when she is happy. Perhaps teaching her to stop for a moment in her happiest times, and think about what it is that’s making her feel good, would be an amazing thing to teach my child.

These are just the basics of emotions – happy and sad – but they’re a good foundation on which to introduce more complex discussions at an appropriate age.

Stopping to think about what makes us happy - I think if more people did this, children and adults alike, we’d be in a position of awareness to make our lives a little happier at times.

Or perhaps we’d just eat more cake.

image freedigitalphotos.net

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