Children law associate Rebecca Mackett and family law trainee Sophie Lindsay explore the importance of this year’s theme for Children’s Mental Health Week–‘my voice matters’–and how this influences the work of the family and children teams at Russell-Cooke.
It’s not always easy to cast your mind back to being a child or a teenager: a time full of memories that can be both joyful and life affirming but also confusing and hard. Many children move between houses on a weekly basis; have to listen to their parents speaking hurtfully about one another and live in the shadow of things ‘getting bad again’. Some of these children have to live with the awareness that there is a person – a judge – who seems to have a higher power and the ability to make big decisions about their life whilst they are left feeling excluded from the process.
Our specialist children team spend a great deal of time talking with young people like these during times of family breakdown. They know how crucial it is to make sure that a young person’s voice is heard and acknowledged.
A balancing act
Making sure that a child feels heard is pivotal to their emotional wellbeing, especially during difficult periods of family change such as a separation, relocation or divorce. Events such as these can impact a child’s sense of identity, their sense of belonging and their attachment to loved ones around them. In the wake of such events, it can be tough to navigate when it is appropriate to allow a child’s voice to influence decision-making and when to protect them from such processes. Our family and children teams know all too well how important it is to ensure that a child’s welfare is the paramount consideration during proceedings whilst balancing their involvement.
How we can help
Our specialist lawyers can advise on the best arrangements for children during times of family upheaval. We work with trained professionals such as psychologists and family therapists to help children and parents to adapt to changing family landscapes and to communicate effectively during the process. Our experience allows us to connect families with community groups and resources that support families going through change and prevent children from becoming collateral damage in the wake of parental breakdown. We understand that children’s mental health is a collective effort and we provide effective legal guidance in the most challenging of circumstances.
Understanding what a child is going through, and making sure that we find out from the young person how it is making them feel, is really at the core of all children cases so we are pleased to have our own team of expert lawyers to assist and understand young people.
Children’s Mental Health Week is a valuable opportunity to consider how court proceedings can impact a child’s mental wellbeing and how parents and professionals can empower children to communicate effectively throughout the process, to reassure children that their voices matter and there are many ways we can get them the help that they or their family may need.