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Effective Co-Parenting: Putting Kids First

Do you want to remove your child(ren) from the divorce conflict? Do you want to be able to engage in relevant, focused discussions about the child(ren)’s needs with the other parent? Do you want to move from parenting disrupted by divorce to effective, business-like co-parenting with appropriate boundaries and rules?

Becoming a single parent as a result of separation or divorce involves many challenges. However, beyond the inevitable trials and tribulations that are involved in raising children, single parents have the additional responsibility of learning how to effectively co-parent with their child(ren)’s other parent. For some, this may come naturally, but for others it can be a huge challenge - particularly if there are difficulties with communication and/or conflicting parenting styles.

Fortunately, in Calgary, help is available. Separating and divorcing parents can access assistance to ensure that the best interests of their children are protected throughout the process. They can be helped to move from emphasizing parental rights to accepting parental responsibilities, ideally within the context and spirit of co-parenting. There are various avenues to pursue once you have made the decision to separate and divorce putting your child(ren)’s needs as a top priority: numerous private counsellors and therapists who work with individuals and families; various lawyers emphasizing collaborative mediation instead of litigation; courses and seminars run through the Alberta courts (such as PAS – Parenting After Separation); and there is a specific program called, ‘Effective Co-Parenting: Putting Kids First.’

Developed in 2003 by Sandy Shuler and Elaine Bucknum, and offered initially exclusively through Jewish Family Service Calgary, ‘Effective Co-Parenting: Putting Kids First’ is now available through a variety of Calgary agencies. This program is intended to help adults learn to co-parent effectively for the benefit of children during separation and divorce; to help parents learn new skills and apply them to their own unique situations; to increase parents’ knowledge on how to reduce the main stressors of separation and divorce on children; and allowing children to maintain access to both of their parents and extended families in spite of this life change.

‘Effective Co-Parenting: Putting Kids First’ helps parents explore their child(ren)’s needs during the transition period associated with separation and divorce, and assists the parents in examining the ways their parenting choices affect their child(ren). The program is not therapy-based, but rather educational, offering skills, strategies, resources and support for participants who are in the process of separation or divorce. Pre-screening ensures that each group has a good mix of ages, genders and participants at different stages of the divorce process, and the format of the course provides plenty of opportunity for participants to learn from each other, and to support and validate each other. The program covers a different topic each week for six weeks and provides a variety of materials and methods including videotape, group discussion, personal reflection and presentations to assist parents in building skills, acquiring knowledge and gaining an awareness of community resources.

Many Calgary parents have benefited from this program in the past five years, and now that it will be more widely available, the hope is that even more local families can be assisted during the difficult adjustment period that accompanies almost any separation and divorce.

Tanya is a Facilitator and Parent Educator with the PACT (Parents and Children Together) preschool program and with The Life and Family Resource Centre. She has a M.Ed. in Child Development. She is the proud mother of three children and has personally experienced separation, divorce
and co-parenting.


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