British Columbia

Author provides guide to post-separation parenthood

The breakdown of a marriage is a difficult experience, and for many couples who have children the goal is to be able to parent them in tandem, or form a cooperative shared parenting agreement.

Avoid personal feuds and focus on creating stable way to split parenting time

Karen Kristjansen has written a book to help today's separated parents navigate the difficult and often confusing transition. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

The breakdown of a marriage is a difficult experience, and for many couples with children, the goal is to parent them in tandem, or form a shared parenting agreement.

It's called co-parenting and author Karen Kristjanson has written a book that shares stories and strategies for navigating the transition.

"It's very messy and I think that's what makes it interesting, and also really challenging because whatever else is happening in your life, if there's an addiction or if you have a special needs child, it just adds more complexity," Kristjanson told B.C. Almanac host Michelle Eliot.

Her book Co-Parenting from the Inside Out features stories of couples who have found solutions to non-traditional parenting, and includes her own story of  how she raised two boys two decades ago after her marriage ended — without many of the resources that are available today.

Vancouver authour Karen Kristjanson wrote Co-Parenting From The Inside Out for separated parents in need of guidance. (Facebook/Shared parenting after divorce)

Kristjanson turned to a counsellor and connected with a group of five other women, who were all navigating post-separation parenthood.

"We would meet every other week for several years and it's not so much that I got specific answers, but it was wonderful to unpack what I was experiencing and what I was grappling with."

The first hurdle she faced was accepting that her dream of a traditional family was ending, which brought anger and sadness.

Children first

To deal with these emotions, Kristjanson said she had to put the children first and come to an agreement with her ex-husband on how they would separate their time during the week in order to equally share responsibility.

Once they mapped out a path forward, it allowed time for her own healing.

One piece of advice: avoid personal feuds that cause drama and turbulence because it will detract from focusing on the kids.

Alyson Jones, a therapist, educator and writer in Vancouver, agreed, saying parents must show leadership.

"If you're drowning in your own emotions and you're not managing that, you're going to lose sight of how to lead your children," she said.

Resources available

The Canadian Bar Association has put together a toolkit called Successfully Parenting Apart, which provides an updated approach to mediating divorce, custody and child support, said Patricia Hebert, a lawyer and mediator.

She said many families have been negatively affected by separation and said the toolkit is designed to provide a list of resources  about best practices in the post-divorce transition.

With files from the CBC's B.C. Almanac