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 most recent book, Happy Parents, Happy Kids, was published by HarperCollins Canada in February 2019.

Happier Parents, Happier Kids (my contribution to the Canadian Index of Child and Youth Well-being 2019 Baseline Report)

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The report (which is entitled Where Does Canada Stand? The Canadian Index of Child and Youth Well-being 2019 Baseline Report) weaves together a tapestry of data to give us a comprehensive and balanced picture of how Canadian children are actually doing (as opposed to how we think they’re doing). The goal of the report (and the underlying Canadian Index of Child and Youth Well-being, which fuelled it) is to help Canadians understand what growing up is like for kids right now and what we can do to make that experience better.

The report poses some really bold and thought-provoking questions, like what kind of country does Canada want to be when it comes to the well-being of our children? As the authors of the report note in a powerful call to action: “The kids of Canada have one chance to be children. Canada has a chance to be a better country for Canada. Stand with children.”

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I tweeted some highlights from the report earlier this morning and I’ll be continuing to share data from the report via social media in the coming days. The reason is simple: I would like every single Canadian who professes to care about children to pay attention to the contents of this truly visionary report.

I particularly applaud the authors’ willingness to spotlight an uncomfortable truth that we don’t talk about nearly enough: the impact of income and social inequality on the lives of Canadian children. “UNICEF Canada believes that reducing income and social inequality is the greatest challenge and opportunity of our time, with potentially the greatest effects on all aspects of children’s lives in Canada.”

We need to look at the data, search our collective souls, and commit to taking action so that each and every Canadian child has a real opportunity to thrive.

Happier Parents, Happier Kids

by Ann Douglas

One of the key ingredients in the recipe for a happy child is a happy parent. When parents do better, kids do better – and vice versa. And, as for the recipe for a happy parent, the key ingredient in that recipe is good public policy.

Parenting doesn’t happen in a bubble. Parents can’t help but be affected by what’s happening in the world beyond their front door. And when it comes to policy decisions, the impact on parenting can be quite dramatic.

“Happier Parents, Happier Kids” by Ann Douglas appears on page 8 of  Where We Stand: The Canadian Index of Child and Youth Well-being 2019 Baseline Report.

“Happier Parents, Happier Kids” by Ann Douglas appears on page 8 of Where We Stand: The Canadian Index of Child and Youth Well-being 2019 Baseline Report.

Research conducted by the Council on Contemporary Families has found, for example, that parental happiness levels increase in the presence of policies that make it less stressful and less costly for parents to juggle the competing demands of work and family. There is, after all, a solid body of research to demonstrate that parents who struggle with high levels of work- life conflict are more likely to be stressed, anxious and depressed. And, what’s more, they’re also likely to be less healthy and more dissatisfied with their relationships with their partners and their kids. When work-life conflict is prolonged or extreme, parents end up being distant, inattentive, less sensitive and less emotionally available to their kids. That, in turn, takes a toll on the happiness of both parents and kids.

It isn’t just happiness that’s at stake. When parents are feeling stressed and overloaded, everything tends to fall apart on the health and wellness front – with the impact even greater if the mother is the parent who is feeling stressed. The good news is that there’s a way to put the brakes on this kind of downward spiral – and to create an upward spiral that allows both parents and kids to thrive.

It starts with family-friendly policies. As it turns out, access to quality, affordable child care is a complete game changer on this front, helping to minimize work- life conflict, encouraging greater gender equity within couple relationships and eliminating the so-called motherhood tax (the fact that mothers are penalized in the workplace for being the ones who typically take the lead on care).

Economic policy that helps to reduce income inequality is equally critical to help relieve the anxiety that so many parents and children experience. As the economic stakes get higher, the pressure on parents and kids gets ever greater, and parents are more likely to decide that harsher and more controlling parenting is the best way to respond to the challenges posed by an uncertain future.

For some parents dealing with trauma and health challenges, child care and other community supports can help them be the parents they want to be.

If we’re actually serious about producing a generation of children who are happier and healthier than their parents, we need public policies that help those children’s parents feel less anxious, less guilty and less overwhelmed. In order to make that happen, we need to shift from treating parenting as a problem that every family needs to solve on its own to choosing instead to embrace it as a collective opportunity to raise up the next generation of citizens together.

As it turns out, that happens to be a winning strategy. Societies that invest in children and their parents by implementing wise and forward-looking public policy also happen to be the societies that reap the greatest dividends on the happiness front. In other words, they’re the best countries in the world to be a parent and to be a kid.


Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about parenting including, most recently, Happy Parents, Happy Kids. She is also the weekend parenting columnist for CBC Radio.

Be The Village

What does it mean to be “the village”?

What does it mean to be “the village”?

What does it mean to be "the village” — to not just long for connection with other people but to actually show up and build those kinds of relationships and, along the way, create community for yourself and other people?

Here’s what it means to me.

It means investing the time needed to truly get to know another person: to establish intimacy and build trust.

It means looking for opportunities to make life better for that person in some small way, like passing along a message of encouragement on a day when that person’s encouragement stores are running low.

It means being open about my own struggles and my own hunger for community. When I am brave enough to open up about what I want and need, I encourage other people to do the same.

It means daring to make the first move when it comes to establishing a connection with another person. At a community event that I hosted in Fredericton, New Brunswick, last month, participants talked about how much courage it takes to approach someone you don’t know to say, “Hey, do you want to be my friend?” The thing is…most of the people in the room were feeling the exact same thing. They were all afraid to make the first move and they were all desperately craving friendship and community. We concluded that some sort of “speed dating for friends” event was desperately needed to help people make these kinds of connections. (I don’t know about you, but I’d be all over that kind of an event.)

I think we need to talk about this more — why so many people are feeling so lonely and so isolated and what practical things we can do to rebuild "the village" in our communities. This is something I’m going to be talking about all summer long. I hope you’ll follow along and join the conversation, too, by sharing some of your own experiences in not just finding but being the village.

This post was originally published in The Villager, Ann’s free twice-monthly newsletter about building community and finding common ground in a rapidly changing world. You can read back issues of the newsletter here and sign up for a subscription at the same time.