Is my voice important?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child says those under the age of 18 have “the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.”
Actually, in the UK, at age 16 and above, you are already treated as an adult in many areas of life. But what if you are under 16?
Well, according to the UN Convention, if there’s anything that affects you, you should be able to express yourself and it should be taken seriously. And, parents splitting up absolutely affects children.
In short, your opinions should not be dismissed just because you are under 16.
Remember, your voice is important because:
- Your opinion matters – not just to you but to your parents, professionals and others
- Your family may look different but they will still be your family
- You have a right for your opinion to be considered on decisions that affect you, even if you are under 16.
You do have a voice – speak up before no more can be said! – Ellie, 16
What can I do?
If you are under 16
Up to age 16, your parents are responsible for making many decisions that concern you – such as where you live, where you go to school and so on. They need to know your thoughts on these things. OK, they may not agree with you, but you do have a right to share your voice.
In our guide for parents (LINK), we explain: “Your teenager has a right to information, support and advice about your separation. Children in separating families also have a right to express their feelings to both parents, and need to be listened to and heard without judgement.”
Sometimes, with everything that’s going on during a separation, parents don’t realise you have your own areas of real concern.
For example, will you be able to see your friends at weekends? What will happen on your birthday and at Christmas? What happens to the family pet? Your parents may not realise these things are important to you – you need to let them know how you feel.
Unfortunately, parents always don’t listen. Resolution (LINK), an organisation for family lawyers, interviewed 500 young people in 2016. Nearly 70% of children felt they should have a voice but only 19% said they were actually heard. That’s not good! But you should still try.
If you are 16 or over
When you reach 16, you have more rights to make your own decisions. For example:
- You can choose where to live and how much you see your parents. Any family court orders for contact with your parents will normally finish when you reach the age of 16 (unless stated otherwise)
- If you live in England, you must stay in school, take up an apprenticeship or a training course until you are 18 years old. But which option is up to you
- If you live in Wales and you will have turned 16 by the end of that school year’s summer holidays, you can leave school
Where Can I Find Help?
- If you need someone to talk with and would like support from our partners, The Mix, use this tool to find more content, a freephone helpline, online forums, apps and more: Open Tool (LINK)
- Use our Share Your Story tool (LINK) to write down your thoughts and read about others feeling the same.
- If you feel that you want to end your life, please seek immediate help from the emergency services on 999. You can also contact HopeLine UK on 0800 068 41 41 or Samaritans. If you are being abused you can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or Samaritans on 116 123.