Parenting Around the World: Iceland

Today’s Parenting Around the World post is about parenting in Iceland [a far cry from the last post about parenting in Argentina]. 

If you are new to my Parenting Around the World post series, please start here with the introduction to understand more about why I choose to write about parenting practices in different cultures.

Parenting in Iceland. Image credit Dorothy Law.  

Let’s talk about Iceland for a second, so you have a little cultural and geographical background.  

This little Nordic country at the top of the globe is economically well-off, environmentally progressive, and ranks high on happiness and quality of life scales despite the harsh climate (Source: Iceland)

Iceland also currently leads the world in single motherhood (Source: CNN), with 67% of babies being born out of wedlock.  

As a generally permissive society, no existing stigma indicates that parents must marry before they begin having children. Icelandic women are independent and are choosing to start their families with or without a ring on their finger. 

Curious as to how the differing family dynamics might affect parenting, I started to read up on what it’s like raising kids in Iceland.  

Here is what I found.  

Parenting in Iceland. Image credit Dorothy Law.

It’s a close-knit community  

(Source: Cup of Jo

Due to its small population, Iceland exudes a village feel, where you get to know a lot of the people around you. Your neighbours know who you are and are able to help you out if you need help.  

Most people live close to family, so children grow up knowing their extended family and being able to rely on them (Source: Iceland Magazine).  While Iceland does have high divorce rates, because of the closeness both geographically and socially, families are still able to function well regardless of whether the parents stay together or not.  

They value independence 

Like German parenting, Icelandic parenting seeks to foster independence in children from a young age. It’s not unusual for children to roam around town playing without adult supervision, or to walk to school by themselves at 6 or 7.  

Due to the low crime rates, parents are less anxious about their children’s safety and instead encourage them to explore and play outside.  

Society accomodates families 

Work and higher education are built around the family unit rather than taking away from it. It’s not unusual to see pregnant women at university, or for a new mother to bring her infant to class with her. In fact, they even have university daycares to accommodate their students’ children (Source: Cup of Jo).  

Women are given lengthy maternity leaves from the workplace – up to six months at 80% pay (Source: CNN). Fathers are also given three months paternity leave (potential for six months, as three are split between mother and father; but that time is usually given to the mother). 

Additionally, most of Iceland’s citizens identify as being financially stable, so having the money to raise children isn’t much of a concern (Source: Iceland Magazine).   

Infants nap outside 

(Source: Quartz

Yep, even when it’s sub-freezing. Parents just bundle them up cozier, and set them out in their stroller.  

Icelanders believe in the importance of fresh air for good health. They also believe that babies sleep better in the cold air.  

So while mom goes shopping, or mom and dad enjoy a peaceful dinner together at a local restaurant, baby will be outside in their stroller, fast asleep.  

And since the average lifespan in Iceland is 82, maybe there is something to this napping outside trend after all. 🙂  

Breastfeeding is common 

(Source: Nordic Mum

Perhaps also adding to the good health and longevity of Icelanders, nearly all children are breastfed at least partially. Icelanders consider public breastfeeding to be normal and acceptable.  

Most children attend daycare  

(Source: Wow Air

People in Iceland don’t just see daycare as a place for children to stay while their parents work; rather, it is the beginning of their schooling. Consequently, nearly all children in Iceland attend daycare from a young age.  

Daycares are technically government-subsidised, but parents do still pay tuition (Source: Grapevine).  

Discipline is not strong  

(Source: Iceland Review

The Icelandic woman writing for Iceland Review felt that parents in Iceland do not discipline their children enough, leading to a lack of respect for authority and a lack of seriousness towards education. Icelandic children are given a lot of freedom, and are allowed to make many of their own choices. This doesn’t always go as well as parents may hope.  

It is illegal to use smacking or spanking as a disciplinary method for children in Iceland (Source: No Spank). 

Parenting in Iceland. Image credit Dorothy Law.

Interested in learning more about parenting in Iceland? Find out what it's like to be a parent there! | Mom but not a Mom


What do you think about parenting in Iceland? 

Icelandic parents, please tell us more about how you raise children in your country!  

4 thoughts on “Parenting Around the World: Iceland

  1. I appreciate the fact that the Icelandic society actually helps and accommodates families. So interesting to see how a country’s history shapes their parenting principles.

    1. Isn’t it? I love researching for these posts because I learn so many interesting tidbits about different cultures and countries.

      Thanks for stopping by, Silvia!

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