Preventive approach to divorce issues

More than one in three marriages end in divorce. There are also many adults who end cohabiting relationships. This often concerns young people who have only been together for a short time, but also very often couples with children. In the Netherlands, an estimated 86,000 underage children are involved in the divorce or separation of their parents every year. Divorce is a far-reaching event for everyone involved and can have a great impact. This was reason enough for TNO to commit to evidence-based preventive assistance for this target group.

For decades, counselling literature has categorised divorce as being the most stressful life event an adult can experience, apart from the death of a partner. We also know from research that the impact of divorce on children is huge. On average, these ‘children of divorce’ perform less well at school, exhibit more behavioural issues, and score lower in the social-emotional field. Until recently, the only theoretically sound interventions were for children aged 8 to 12. Therefore, an evidence-based programme for younger children in divorce situations was particularly desirable.

TNO found a solution to this problem in the Children of Divorce Intervention Program (CODIP). This is an evidence-based programme that focuses on the prevention of divorce-related issues. In international research, this programme has proved effective in preventing both the internalising and externalising of issues. It offers various modules, including those for years 1 and 2 and years 3 and 4 of primary school. In collaboration with partners in the field, TNO has developed Dutch adaptations for the age groups 4-6 years (Tough Turtles (Stoere Schildpadden)) and 6-8 years (Brave Dinos (Dappere Dino's)). In 12 group meetings, attention is paid in a playful way to discussing divorce-related feelings, learning to deal with unrealistic perceptions of and attitudes towards divorce, and strengthening the problem-solving skills of the participating children.

Tough Turtles and Brave Dinos help!

A number of evaluations have taken place for Tough Turtles and Brave Dinos thanks to funding from ZonMw and Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland. The studies showed positive results. The children enjoyed the programmes and considered the group to be a safe place to discuss their feelings. They made new friends and found new ways to solve problems. Increases were measured regarding the positive functioning and well-being of the children, together with decreases in social-emotional problems.

Workbook for young people

Tough Turtles and Brave Dinos are aimed at young children. There are also group programmes for older children. They are not available everywhere and some children and young people require different information and support. Some of the young people look for information on the Internet or for support from a friend or buddy. Young people also told us that they would like a practical book on divorce. On Divorce Day 2019, this became available in the form of workbook ‘When your parents split up(by Mariska Klein Velderman and Fieke Pannebakker). It’s a workbook especially written for young people with divorced parents and is intended as a source of information and support. It contains questions and assignments, and a sample diary to help young people put their experiences and feelings down on paper. The book is available in bookshops or via the Internet (ISBN 9789057125270).

DivorceATLAS supports parents after divorce

In the Netherlands in 2016, there was also a need for substantiated low-threshold and light support for parents after divorce. That’s why, in the period 2016-2017, the ‘DivorceATLAS’ intervention (© TNO) was developed. DivorceATLAS is a short intervention especially developed with and for divorced parents, to support parenting after divorce. The intervention aims to inform and empower separated parents. It also offers concrete tools, aimed at supporting children and communication with the other parent. DivorceATLAS is unique in that the intervention is available in two variants: (1) a group training programme with two meetings of three hours each; and (2) an online training programme with six content chapters. The content of both variants is the same and parents use the same handbook for reference, but the form differs per intervention variant. In a quasi-experimental study (2017-2019, financed by ZonMw), TNO studied the effectiveness of both intervention variants of DivorceATLAS. The survey shows the enthusiasm of parents and group leaders. Participating parents felt supported, got ideas for supporting their child(ren), and were given a push to get started.


For its research on Brave Dinos, TNO received a 2013 ZonMw Parel Award. Tough Turtles has been recognised as theoretically well-founded by the Databank Effective Youth Interventions, and Brave Dinos as effective according to good evidence. Both interventions have been further registered as a brand name™ in the Benelux Trademark register and Brave Dinos is included as an intervention in the Healthy School. For more information, see and This website also provides more information on the initial qualification to become a trainer.

DivorceATLAS was created on the basis of research, contributions from experts, and experiences of other divorced parents. In 2021, the project received a Parel Award from ZonMw. It concerns a collaboration between TNO, Humanitas, and Schoolformaat within the framework of a ZonMw project. On the Registration page you can find more information about the intervention and register for the online training. If you would like to register for the group training in the Haaglanden or Almere region, you can find information in the DivorceATLAS flyers below. Information for professionals can be found in the fact sheet (pdf) (pdf) about DivorceATLAS.

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Would you like to know more?

Download the intervention description of Brave Dinos here