New Online Resource Supports Icelandic Children of Divorce Skip to content

New Online Resource Supports Icelandic Children of Divorce

By Ragnar Tómas

school children
Photo: Golli.

Icelandic children aged 3 to 17 with divorced parents now have access to an online resource, SES for Children, to learn about divorce and its impact. The programme, which includes 28 courses, aims to help children cope with the consequences of divorce and is the first of its kind to be offered nationwide.

First to offer nationwide access

Icelandic children aged 3 to 17 with divorced parents now have access to a new online resource to learn about divorce and its impact on their lives and emotions, Vísir reports. The programme offers 28 online courses tailored to different age groups and themes, covering topics such as grief, blended families, how to react when parents argue, emotions, and children’s rights.

Previously available only to adults, the programme, SES (Samvinna eftir skilnað, or Cooperation After Divorce in English), now has around 2,000 adult users in Iceland. It was launched in 2020 and, as noted on the government’s website, has proportionally the most users compared to both the Danish and Swedish websites.

The children’s version, developed similarly by child and family psychologists in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, is entitled SES for Children. Last week, the Minister of Education and Children’s Affairs, Ásmundur Einar Daðason signed an agreement to introduce SES for Children and extend the programme for adults.

As noted by Vísir, Iceland is the first country to offer this service nationwide.

Clear demand for a children’s version

Sören Sander, one of the project’s developers in Copenhagen, has researched divorce and its effects on families for years. In an interview with Vísir published today, Sander noted that since the adult programme’s inception, there has been a clear demand for similar resources for children. 

SES for Children is already offered in 22 municipalities in Denmark and 11 in Sweden, with Iceland being the first to offer it nationwide: “This programme has been implemented and used elsewhere, with ten thousand children already benefiting from it. It has been tested and proven effective,” Sander stated, adding that parents’ feedback had been overwhelmingly positive.

“We are often asked if there is something similar for children. Most parents are happy to have a tool that can help them open difficult conversations with their kids. This new resource bridges the communication gap between parents and children regarding the changes in the family during divorce,” Sander explained, adding that he believes Iceland is an ideal place to launch the programme due to its small size and the positive reception from adults. 

In June, there were 2,075 adult users in Iceland. Six to seven hundred divorces are recorded in Iceland annually, Vísir notes.

Empowering children

As noted by Vísir, the programme is for children who have not only experienced their parents’ or guardians’ divorce but also for those who went through it years ago and now live in new family setups with stepparents and stepsiblings. It is for the entire family: before, during, and after the divorce. 

Sander emphasises that the programme is a good conversational tool that empowers children without burdening them with responsibility.

“It empowers them to speak up when their parents aren’t communicating or are speaking poorly about each other. Children have little power in these situations and find it distressing to see their parents argue,” Sander observed. As noted by Vísir, one module teaches children how to intervene without escalating conflicts.

“It could be a birthday or a confirmation, or even when the child grows up and gets married,” Sander explained. “These major family events can be sources of conflict. Our toolkit includes a checklist for handling such situations and questions for parents to consider. Should there be one party or two? Should they buy a gift together? Should they invite new partners and both families? Who pays for what? These seemingly simple questions often cause significant disagreements.”

Sander further noted that in such cases, parents sometimes ask the child what they want, which can create a loyalty conflict. “But that places the responsibility on the child and can create a loyalty dilemma,” Sander explained. One module teaches children to tell their parents politely that they don’t want to choose.”

“The child can say, ‘I choose not to have an opinion on this. You have to decide.’ This helps children stay out of conflicts and lets parents find a solution,” Sander observed. The programme addresses one problem from multiple angles.

“I think Iceland can be a model for other countries,” Sander added.

No waitlist

As noted by Vísir, the SES website is still in development. All courses are available, but some are still in Danish and awaiting translation (they will be replaced as soon as translations are ready). The content is accessible online, so it can be viewed anytime.

“There is no waitlist,” Sander clarified. “We know that men are less likely than women to seek help. Also, people in small communities may hesitate to seek help locally. It’s a big advantage for those people to be able to seek help online.” 

“Our hope is that this will be useful for children and their parents and will even encourage them to talk about it with others. It’s normal to find it difficult, but it helps to not feel alone. It’s easier to ask for help when you have the vocabulary and a common language. Children often don’t realise their distress is due to their parents’ divorce. This programme helps them understand the root of their problems and that they are not alone,” Sander concluded.

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