Parenting Blog

The official blog for Ann Douglas, parenting book author and weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio. Ann is the creator of The Mother of All Books series and the author of Parenting Through the Storm. Her latest book, Happy Parents, Happy Kids, will be published by HarperCollins Canada in February 2019.

The Mother of All Toddler Books, The Mother of All Toddler Workshops, and more!

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Sometimes I get so busy blogging about all things parenting that I forget to tell you about all the exciting things that have been happening behind the scenes.

I haven’t done a very good job of telling you, for example, that there’s a brand new edition of The Mother of All Toddler Books on the bookstore shelves — a massively revamped edition that takes into account the most important things we’ve learned about toddler development over the past 15 years, when the first edition of the book was published. Of course, what hasn’t changed is the book’s fiercely Canadian perspective: the fact that it incorporates recommendations from Canadian health authorities and includes the voices and stories of Canadian parents. It’s still very much a “mother of all” book, in other words.

Deeply rooted in the latest research about what allows young children to thrive and packed with practical strategies and fresh ideas, this kind and supportive book feels like a conversation with a good friend.
— Cathy Kerr, early childhood professional

Anyway, now that there’s a brand new edition of The Mother of All Toddler Books to share with the world (or at least in the tiny little corner of the world that is Canada), I’m going to be doing a fair bit of speaking about toddlers in the coming weeks.

Comprehensive, easy to read, this guide is packed full of great advice for parents trying to navigate the turbulent toddler years.
— Michael Dickinson, MD, past president of the Canadian Paediatric Society

This weekend (October 13 and 14), I’ll be at The Baby Show in Toronto, hosting two rounds of Toddler Trivia — a fun, interactive game featuring the most exciting prize imaginable. (No, it’s not a car! It’s a signed copy of The Mother of All Toddler Books!) Anyway, you can join in the fun on Saturday or Sunday afternoon at 1 pm. I hope to see you there.

On October 23, I’m joining forces with Hello, Baby! (a doula service and childbirth education company in Peterborough, Ontario) to offer “The Mother of All Toddler Workshops.” The fee for this workshop includes a signed copy of the book and the chance to participate in an intimate, small-group workshop. I hope you’ll join me and/or spread the word to family members or friends living in the Peterborough area.

On November 12, I’ll be giving a delivering “The Mother of All Toddler Workshops” to members of the Life With A Baby community in Thornhill, Ontario. The workshop is free for members and open to non-members for a nominal fee, but pre-registration is required.

I think that’s all the news on the toddler front. In the weeks ahead, I’ll be sharing news about my forthcoming book, Happy Parents, Happy Kids, which will hit the bookstore shelves in February. I’ll also be speaking at a number of parenting events and health conferences and I’ll be continuing to publish issues of my three brand new newsletters. (Go ahead. Make my day. Sign up for one or more of those newsletters….)

You're Invited to the Parenting Through the Storm Book Club (it's free and it's online)

 Ann Douglas is hosting a Parenting Through the Storm Book Club for four weeks starting November 12. It's free and it's online. 

Ann Douglas is hosting a Parenting Through the Storm Book Club for four weeks starting November 12. It's free and it's online. 

Ever wish you could participate in a book club from the comfort of your own couch, with a mug of your favourite steamy beverage in hand? Now you can!

I'm joining forces with VoicED Radio to host a four-week online book club focusing on Parenting Through the Storm (my guide to parenting a child who is struggling with a mental health, neurodevelopmental, or behavioural challenge).

Each Sunday night at 8 pm ET, I'll be zeroing on one of the key themes discussed in the book and inviting a special guest to chat with me. Here's a sneak preview of who I've invited and what we'll be talking about. 

I hope you'll plan to tune in to the discussion (you can listen in via this link) and to participate in the Twitter discussion as well.

And, just to be clear, this is a 100% guilt-free book club. You don't have to read the book in order to be involved. (Because what parent needs more guilt in their life, right?) 

UPDATE: Missed an episode of the book club? You can replay all four episodes here.

How to Start a Parenting Book Club

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Looking for a way to strike up friendships with the other parents you bump into in the hallway at your child's school -- or that great group of parents you like to hang out with online?

Why not consider starting your own parenting book club?

It's a fun and easy way to spark discussions about all things parenting and to build relationships other parents. (If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to support that child's parent. Starting a parenting book club is a powerful way to create and nurture that village.)

Here's what you need to know to get started....

Step One: Decide whether you want to meet face-to-face or online.

Naturally, there are pros and cons to going either route. Face-to-face conversations offer more opportunities for small talk -- casual chitchat that tends to break the ice and that can help to establish trust. But scheduling face-to-face anything can be a major challenge, as you know. There will always be another activity (or ten) competing for people's time. And while online discussion groups are the clear winner when it comes to scheduling (parents can dive in and out of discussions at the time that's work best for them), you're unlikely to have their sole, undivided attention. There's always a Facebook or Twitter notification ready to lure them away from whatever your book club is talking about -- or they may overlook your book club discussions entirely if they're having a particularly busy newsfeed day. 

And then there's the issue of deciding where to meet (at your child's school? at the local library? in someone's home) or where to host your online discussions (in a private Facebook group? in some other online space?). Your goals in either situation -- whether you're meeting face-to-face or online -- are (1) to safeguard the confidentiality of member discussions and (2) to make being involved blissfully simple and hassle-free. (Don't ask parents to drive across town or to download obscure third-party software in order to participate in your book club or they simply won't bother.) 

Step Two: Invite other parents and ask them to help you spread the word.

Send out an email or text message to other parents you know, letting them know that you have a parenting book club in the works. Or share your invitation via social media, so that other parents can help you spread the word. If you're hosting your parenting book club at your child's school or the local branch of your public library, maybe the school or library would be willing to help publicize your book club via their newsletter or website, too. 

You'll find that parents are more likely to want to be involved if you're upfront about your plans and expectations, so be sure to include details about how often you'll be meeting, when and where you'll be meeting, and how many books you expect them to tackle in any given year.

Pro tip: Parents are among the most time-stressed people on the planet, so you may find you get more uptake if you're only asking parents to read a chapter or two -- as opposed to an entire book -- each month. Anything more than that may feel overwhelming and discourage parents from becoming involved.

Step Three: Promise to deliver a guilt-free book club experience to your book club members. 

Parents don't need any additional things to feel guilty about. They've got plenty already. So don't beat them up for missing a meeting or not having time to do the readings or for having to dash out the door mid-meeting to deal with a kid-related emergency. Hey, life happens....

And speaking of sidestepping stress, you'll also want to prevent any inadvertent book club drama. This means be explicit about the need for confidentiality. Discussions about parenting inevitably get personal, so book club members need to know that the stories they share with other book club members won't become fodder for the gossip mill. What happens in book club should stay in book club, in other words....

Step Four: Keep it simple.

Focus on what matters most: the actual parenting discussions. Sure, it's great to have delicious, eye-catching snacks -- even snacks that tie into the book's theme. But it can be stressful to find yourself scrambling to put together an Instagram-worthy contribution at 1:00 am the night before.

So keep it simple on the snack front. And, while you're at it, look for other ways to minimize the work associated with hosting a parenting book club. For example, choose books that already have existing book club discussion guides. That will save you the work of coming up with a list of discussion questions on your own. (Not quite sure what a book club discussion guide is or what it has to offer? Check out the book club guide for my book Parenting Through the Storm as an example.)

And, speaking of simple yet powerful ways to ramp up your book club discussions, consider inviting the author of the book you're discussing to join in the conversation (in person or via Skype, FaceTime, or Google Hangout). It's something that most authors are thrilled to do, time and geography permitting. And even if they can't join your discussions in real time, odds are they'd be happy to send along a video greeting or other book club message instead. (I, for one, am thrilled when book clubs make the ask because it gives me the chance to connect with readers of my books -- the whole reason I became an author in the first place.)

There's also an added benefit to making contact with the author: if your book club is big enough and you're purchasing large quantities of the author's book, you may qualify for a bulk purchase discount. (That discount tends to kick in at around the 20 copy mark, depending on the book's publisher.) 

So there you have it: a quick guide to launching your own parenting book club. Have some advice to pass along to other parents, based on your own book club experiences? Please share it via the comments section below. (Thanks!)


Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including, most recently, Parenting Through the Storm. She loves to connect with parents via parenting book clubs and other face-to-face and online events

Reading Guide: Parenting Through the Storm

A few months ago, I was approached by a school that was interested in choosing Parenting Through the Storm as a selection for their school's parenting book club.

Needless to say, I loved the idea; and the school's email got me thinking about what I could do to support their efforts. In addition to offering to visit their school (either virtually or in person, depending on logistics!), I also offered to create a reading guide for Parenting Through the Storm.

The result is the reading guide that I have just uploaded to the website.

If you take a moment to download a copy, you'll see that it is a hefty guide (11 pages!) containing

  • a series of discussion questions tied into the major issues touched upon in the book (both overview questions that apply to the book as a whole and questions that relate to specific chapters)
  • spinoff social-emotional learning activities for parents to try at home
  • a series of illustrations and quotes that highlight some of the key points I hope every reader will take away from the book and the resulting book club discussion.

Note: It doesn't matter whether you're reading the Canadian edition of the book or the US and International edition of the book. Either way, this reading guide is for you. 

And if you do decide to choose Parenting Through the Storm as a selection for your parenting book club or other reading group, please drop me a line to let me know. I'd love to hear how things go and I'd welcome your suggestions on how to improve the guide.

Parenting Through the Storm (American + International Edition) Has Just Been Published by Guilford Press

 The US and International edition of Parenting Through the Storm by Ann Douglas has just been published by Guilford Press.

The US and International edition of Parenting Through the Storm by Ann Douglas has just been published by Guilford Press.

Over the past year, I've heard from a lot of parents in countries outside of Canada, wondering how they could get their hands on a copy of my book Parenting Through the Storm.

One American parent who really wanted to read the book went so far as to have a Canadian friend purchase and mail her a copy of the Canadian edition. Now that's persistence and dedication!

Well, as of this week, parents outside of Canada will no longer have to resort to such extreme measures to get their hands on a copy of the book.

The US and International Edition of Parenting Through the Storm has just been published by Guilford Press, a respected publisher of books about mental health, education, and parenting.

About the book

This is easily the most personal book I’ve ever written.

I talk about my children’s struggles, my family’s struggles, and my own struggles.

But this book is so much more than a book about struggle.

It is also a book about hope and healing and resilience—about practical things you can to do to make life better for your child and your family, starting right now, even before you have a definitive diagnosis or treatment plan in place.

A lot of that wisdom is based on the best advice of the 60 other parents I interviewed for the book—parents who bravely opened up about their families’ struggles in an effort to make things better for other parents and kids. These parents offered practical advice on everything from making sense of a child’s diagnosis to dealing with bullying to advocating for a child at school. And they offered messages of encouragement and support, like the fact that having a child who is struggling doesn’t make you a bad parent, just as being a child who is struggling doesn’t make your child a bad kid. It’s just the particular challenge your family is dealing with.

What people are saying about the book

The book attracted some very positive pre-publication reviews and it has already been featured in a few media stories, too:

How the American edition is different from the Canadian edition (and vice versa)

I've had a few people ask me how the Canadian and American/International editions of the book are different, so I figured I should answer that question here, too. The Canadian edition of the book is, well, very Canadian. It talked a lot about the mental health and education systems in Canada, featured Canadian experts, spotlighted Canadian research and resources, and suggested some uniquely Canadian solutions to our uniquely Canadian challenges. (Hey, I told you it was very Canadian.) That book wouldn't have been particularly helpful for an American parent who was trying to make sense of American laws (think ADA, IDEA, and 504) or to figure out what supports were available to their family and their child -- and what supports should be available to their family and their child (the advocacy piece of the puzzle). That's why I had to research and rewrite large sections of the American and International edition of the book from scratch. I figure that about 75% of the content is the same for the two editions of the book and about 25% is different. 

The good news is that I didn't have to tackle these far-reaching book revisions on my own. 

As I noted in the acknowledgments for the book, it's impossible to write a book of this kind without the help of a great many people:

So there you have it -- the book publishing news from here! 

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If you know someone who would benefit from this book (perhaps the parent of a child who is struggling, a teacher who wants to learn how to better support parents and kids who are going through a difficult time, or a clinician who would like to have a book of this kind to recommend to parents), it would be great if you would tell them about it. 

Any questions? Ask away! I'd love to hear from you.