A Calgary woman reflects on parents’ divorce

When 24-year-old Jennifer Kanik’s parents divorced four years ago, she was shocked.

“My dad had an affair. My mom had always said she would never forgive an affair so he knew what he was getting into,” she said.

Kanik said she went through a range of emotions at that time, some of which surprised even her.

“I was anxious about my mom’s happiness and it was hard seeing her be so upset. Then after a while, I was angry at her for not getting over it,” she said.

Kanik, whose relationship with her dad was somewhat rough leading up to the divorce of her parents, said she actually had sympathy for her father because he was sad and lonely following the split.

“I felt sorry for my dad and I think that’s why I forgave him for our other issues, because he just really needed a friend,” she said. “He really wanted to fix the marriage.”

According to Hilary Anderson, founder of C.H.I.L.D., children of divorce are the “quiet victims of a devastating process which inevitably creates sheer havoc in their lives.”

Kanik’s own realm of havoc continued to escalate.


Twenty-years-old when her parents called it quits, Kanik said her mother used her as a support system. Already stressed due to the fact that she was giving birth to her own daughter that same year, Kanik, now a single mom herself, said it was difficult to deal with having to hear intimate details about her dad’s affair.Kanik says she hopes her daughter can have a positive relationship with both her and her ex.

Photo By: Ashley Freeman

“I had to be there for my mom and be supportive, so I had to not stand up for my dad,” she said. “She almost didn’t want me to be friends with him and forgive him, but I had.”

Pam Eaton, a counselor at the Calgary Counselling Center who deals specifically with children and families of divorce, said it’s crucial for parents to always talk positively about their ex-partner when communicating with their children.

“The children are in the middle — the children love dad and they love mom. For one parent to use them for support will put some distance between them and the other parent,” Eaton said.

“They don’t know whom they should go to and sometimes they feel like, maybe I’m not supposed to love dad or maybe I’m not supposed to love mom.”

Kanik, who struggled to maintain relationships with both her parents during the split, said her relationship with her dad actually became stronger afterward.

“It gave us a chance to talk and get to know each other. While they were separated, we were forced to do things one-on-one, so it really developed our relationship,” she explained.

According to Kanik, her parents eventually started seeing each other again and she was completely surprised to learn that her mom was giving her dad a second chance.

Kanik said she spoke with her mother, asking her not to involve her too deeply in what was going on with her parent’s relationship. Her mom agreed, but Kanik said that lead to problems down the road because her mother was then totally keeping her in the dark about what was going on with her father, whom she had started seeing again.

“I think it’s because she didn’t want to be viewed as weak or compromising her morals, but she loved him,” Kanik stated.

Frustrated by the back and forth between her parents, Kanik said it helped her learn a valuable lesson.

“It is their life — I had to step out and that’s what my mom had to realize. She couldn’t involve me.”

“It is their life — I had to step out and that’s what my mom had to realize. She couldn’t involve me.”

-Jennifer Kanik

Happy that her parents are now openly back together, Kanik said things are looking up for their family.

“I’m closer to both of them than I’ve ever been in my life,” she said.

Whether or not a couple decides to try again or stay divorced, Eaton said it’s important to show unconditional love to the children and reassure them that sometimes, ending a marriage is the right thing for everyone.

“It’s okay to break up. The ultimate goal in life is happiness and when two people aren’t very happy then it’s okay to do that,” said Eaton.

“If you do it with love and support, it makes the kids feel more at ease and gives them strength so if they get in a relationship that isn’t working, they know it’s okay to step away from it.”

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