Dear Cassandra Thorburn, for the sake of your children - you need to stop

"We get it. You’re really, really angry at your ex, Karl Stefanovic. And perhaps you have every right to be."

Dear Cassandra,

Like your kids, I’m the child of a media star. My mum also gave up her career to take care of our family. My parents split when I was the same age as your eldest son, Jackson. My dad also remarried a younger woman.

And my mum never did what you are doing to turn your kids against their dad, and I’m forever grateful for it.

You need to stop encouraging your kids to hate their dad. And you need to stop now.

We get it.

You’re really, really angry at your ex, Karl Stefanovic. And perhaps you have every right to be. You’ve told us how you shouldered the entire household load while your husband became a big TV star. You’re hurt and humiliated that he’s moved on so quickly with someone younger than you. You think he’s a ridiculous, egocentric, pathetic twit.

And maybe he is.

He’s also your kids’ dad.


Cass and Karl's split in 2016 was far from amicable.

"Their father. The man who is half their DNA"

And yet since your marriage ended in 2016, you’ve done nothing but tear him to shreds in public. Their father. The man who is half their DNA.

“He really is dead to me and no, we won't ever be friends again,” you told Woman’s Day in 2017.

“I’ve done a lot of reading about narcissism,” you told a reporter triumphantly at the airport just before Karl’s wedding to his new love Jasmine Yarbrough earlier this month.“This fake person who lives in this fake castle, it’s not real.”

Say "I love you" whenever you feel it, even if it's 743 times a day. You simply can not spoil a child with too many mushy words of affection and too many smooches. Not possible.

“He’s thrown three weddings for goodness sake. Who needs three weddings in a year, give us a break!” you scoffed.

But the final straw is when you started thrusting your kids into it.

Co-opting them into your grief telling the world about their supposed feelings and their difficulties about their dad’s new life, virtually cornering them into having those feelings whether they want them or not.

“They were told they never had to go [to the wedding]. My 19-year-old has assured me they did not attend,” you revealed to New Idea this week.

Your 19-year-old assured you? What is a child doing “assuring” his adult mother about anything? It’s not his job to console you through your pain.

“[The younger kids had] to go [to Mexico] and my eldest son went to protect them because at the commitment ceremony they tried to force my children, remember,” you said in the same article.

Protect them? From what? Their dad? Their dad who you were married to for 21 years? Protect them? He’s not a serial killer. They were safe. They need you to encourage them to share their dad’s happiness.

Image: supplied

We get you may not be thrilled about this. Image: Supplied

And then most tragic of all, your 19-year-old son Jackson has given his own interview to The Daily Mail , trying desperately and loyally to defend his mum. “My brother and sister didn’t want to go, and I was not going to leave them on their own so I looked after them,” he told reporters, valiantly taking on the role of family protector.

"If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?" - Milton Berle

“I figure at their age they may not have an understanding of watching a parent get re-married. They might not understand it’s just a parent moving on.”

I’m sure you’d argue your kids are coming to their own, independent conclusions about their dad. And I’m sure it’s not entirely a bed of roses for them as they watch him form a new family with someone else. But your job is to help make it easier for them. Support their dad. Encourage their relationship with him and his new wife. Give your kids space and permission to love him. Show them that the most important thing in their lives is having a wonderful relationship with the two people who love them best - you and Karl.

Hell, I’m not saying you won’t have to grit your teeth to do it.

It will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. And girlfriend, burn paper effigies of Karl with your friends in your own time if you like. Cry to a close family member. Watch First Wives Club 53 times in a row. I’m here for that and I even wrote a piece back in 2016 defending your initial, knee-jerk public reaction of fury when the split first happened. You can read that here .

But that was two years ago. It’s time to stop your subtle and not-so-subtle efforts to make your kids choose sides. You may not even realise you’re doing it but your insistence on ‘reports’ back from his wedding, your drawing of me vs him lines, your airing your hurt and fury in public is going to tear your kids apart.

Trusting that your children love you, allows you to do the “parent things” that may sometimes make them dislike you for a while.

Why is any of this my business? Because your constant courting of the media has made it everyone’s business. And I am an a fairly singular position to know exactly what your kids are going through.

Image: supplied

Cass, it's time to stop. Image: Supplied

Like you, my mum shouldered the household load of raising us kids while my dad became a media star. He also found himself a much younger woman not long after they split when I was the same age as your eldest son. And yep, for a minute there, it was pretty weird for everyone. My mum most of all, I suspect.

But I don’t really know how hard it was for her, or at least I didn’t at the time. Because she never tried to turn my brother or myself against my father or my stepmum. We weren’t her shoulder to cry on. She never let her hurt become our burden. She never put us in the middle. And she certainly didn’t give any details to the media. She knew that whatever her feelings were for her ex-husband, her kids had a right to love both their parents.

And because of that, my brother and I have strong, happy, healthy relationships with everyone in our family - parents, step-parents, half-siblings and everyone else. We’re a properly weird bunch on paper but a bunch that’s full of love. And my brother and I live with no lingering feelings of shame, guilt or depression because one parent forced us to reject 50 per cent of ourselves.

Let your kids fail. To learn self-sufficiency, kids need to occasionally dust themselves off (literally and figuratively) without your help. "Most parents know what their children are capable of but step in to make things easier for them," says Sheri Noga, the author of Have the Guts to Do It Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence. Remember: Long-term benefits—a teenager who knows how to do her own laundry, for example—trump momentary discomfort. Before you rush in to help with any physical task, ask yourself: "Is my child in real danger?" Then—and this applies to other challenges, like the social studies poster due tomorrow—think about whether your child has the necessary skills (dexterity and balance) or simply adequate sleep and a snack. Yes? Time to back off and see what happens.

Here are are some of the ways parents alienate their children from a parent. Read about them here and ask yourself if you might be guilty of one or two of them.

And here’s what we know about children who are alienated by one parent and forced to choose sides when their parents divorce. According to peer-reviewed studies they are prone to social isolation, a fragile sense of self, anger, depression and anxiety. You can read more about the effects here .

You’re angry at your ex. And that’s fine.

But putting that anger ahead of everything else is only going to destroy the one thing you love most of all - your kids.