The official website of parenting author Ann Douglas

Talking to Kids About Death and Dying

Added on by Ann Douglas.
Veer Images: Nailia Schwartz

Veer Images: Nailia Schwartz

Talking to kids about death and dying may not be easy, but it is important. These conversations help to shape our children's attitudes about what it means to have to say goodbye to someone you love. Here are some tips on getting the conversation started. Remember, this is a conversation you'll be having on an ongoing basis as your child grows and matures and he begins to ask new and different questions about death and dying.

When you're trying to decide how to answer your child's questions, keep your child's age and abilities in mind. Very young children may have simple and direct questions that warrant simple and direct answers.

Look for the teachable moments that occur as part of everyday life. If you're lucky, your child's first experience with grief and bereavement will be with a goldfish as opposed to a grandparent. 

Respect your child's feelings. It is sad when a much-loved pet like a goldfish dies. It is normal to wish that pets (and people) we love could be here with us forever.

Don't use euphemisms simply because you're uncomfortable using the d-word. The goldfish isn't sleeping. It is dead. You don't want your child to be afraid to go to bed at night for fear of never waking up. 

Tackle the tough questions ("Are you going to die, too, mommy?")  as honestly as you can while simultaneously acknowledging you don't have all the answers. You can also reassure your child that are doing everything you can to try to live a long and healthy life and promise to let your child know if the situation changes. Respectful and honest communication alleviates a lot of anxiety for children -- and parents, too.

Pinocchio Syndrome: What happens when parents lie to kids?

Added on by Ann Douglas.
Veer Images: keng po leung

Veer Images: keng po leung

Children who are lied to are more likely to lie and cheat themselves. That's the word from researchers at the University of California at San Diego, who studied the effects of being lied to by an adult on a group of children, ages three through seven. They discovered that the children who were lied to by one of the researchers were more likely to lie and cheat themselves.

Lying to kids might seem like a convenient parenting shortcut -- a seemingly harmless way to get kids to do what you want them to do quickly and efficiently, but there are actually some hidden perils. If you think about it, you'll realize that it's actually a highly manipulative behaviour that can damage your relationship with your child (you risk having your child lose trust in you) and that can mess with your child's moral compass (that all-important inner voice that helps your child to figure out for herself what's right and what's wrong). 

A better approach (and one that will serve you better over the long run) is to be honest with your child. Sure, you may have to deal with a few more outbursts over the short-run as your child learns to work through his frustration over the issues of the day, but you'll be trading short-term pain for long-term gain. You'll be building up (rather than eroding) your relationship with your child and you'll be helping your child to develop a strong moral compass. Both you and your child will be much better off as a result. And that's no lie.

Looking for Canadian Youth to Interview for My Mental Health Book for Parents

Added on by Ann Douglas.

I am writing a book for parents who have a child who is struggling with mental illness. The book will be published by HarperCollins Canada in 2014.

To make the book as helpful as possible, I would like to obtain some input from Canadian young people who are living with (or who have experienced) mental illness. I have created a questionnaire that covers such topics as diagnosis, treatment, sources of support, and advice to others.

If you or someone you know would be interested in contributing to my research, please contact me at 

Thank you.


Looking for Parents to Interview for My New Book

Added on by Ann Douglas.

I am just starting work on my latest book project -- a book for parents who have children who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other types of mental health issues including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.  I also intend to write about the struggles faced by children and youth with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, eating disorders, and children who have experienced trauma.

The book will be published by HarperCollins Canada in Fall 2014.

I am looking to interview approximately 50 to 75 Canadian parents for this book. Specifically, I am looking to interview parents who have at least one child who has struggled with some sort of mental health issue and who are eager to offer support to and/or share what they have learned with other parents.

The interviews will be conducted between mid-April and late June via a series of eight questionnaires (consisting of approximately 10 questions each)  that will cover such topics as obtaining a diagnosis, advocating for your child (and teaching your child self-advocacy skills), parenting a child with a mental health issue, and caring for yourself and the rest of your family. The questionnaires can be completed at your own pace so that you can work them around your family's busy schedule.

Each parent who completes at least 75% of the questionnaires will be acknowledged in the book's acknowledgments (with his/her permission). He/she will also receive a signed copy of the book and be invited to book-related events when the book is launched in Fall 2014. 

This book is important to me because I have lived through much of what I will be writing about. All four of my children have dealt with one or more of the issues that fall underneath the mental health umbrella. My daughter has written about her struggles with an eating disorder and depression. My three sons struggled with ADHD during their growing up years. My youngest son has Asperger's. And I am living with -- and mostly thriving with -- Bipolar II.

If you think you might be interested in participating in this project, please get in touch. 

I am also interested in hearing from mental health researchers who would like to flag their latest child/youth mental health research for me and any Canadian mental health-related organizations who would like to have a conversation about what their organizations can bring to this project.


Ann Douglas
annmdouglas [ at ] 

Another Reason Why Babies -- and Parents -- Lose Sleep

Added on by Ann Douglas.

When babies are learning new things, they may miss out on sleep. That's the conclusion of a study I write about in today's Toronto Star. I interviewed eight parents, a sleep expert, and an expert in infant development.

Unfortunately, my article was too long and some of the wisdom that the parents shared with me had to be cut from the original article. Rather than allow those bits of wisdom to be lost, I thought I'd share their experiences via this blog.

I think I'm going to start doing this more often -- sharing outtakes from some of my articles. Some really good stuff gets lost on the editing room floor. What's more, I really appreciate the time parents spend sharing their experiences with me and I don't want their contributions to be lost.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Ambrozinio

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Ambrozinio

Anyway, here's what the parents who didn't end up being quoted in the article had to say:

“Max (8 months old) is definitely working on crawling. He’s still not sleeping through the night and his sleep seems to have gotten worse lately.”
- Michelle Williams, mother of three, St. John’s, Newfoundland

“Eli was a fairly good sleeper up until age six months. Lately, he’s been up twice, if not three or four times, each night. He just started crawling this week.”
- Laura Kohoko, mother of four, Toronto

“There definitely have been some challenges with sleep. From the time Charlotte was 8 months to about 9 ½ months, she was very fussy at night.”
- Mike Reynolds, father of two, Ottawa

“Once Erik had crawling down pat, his sleep improved for a while. Now he’s learning to walk and he’s quite obsessed about that and back to waking up more in the night.”
- Kim Winiski, mother of two, Calgary