Ask any child of divorce and they'll tell you that watching their parents split was one of the hardest things they've ever had to endure.
But for Jackson Stefanovic, whose family has hit the headlines ever since his Today show star dad Karl walked out on his mum Cassandra in September 2016, the pain has been unimaginable.
Now, after years of suffering in silence, the usually private teen is finally speaking out about his parents' bitter split.
"My mother is the most extraordinary person, and what she has weathered these past few years, no one deserves the backlash," Jackson tells Woman's Day.
"To watch my parents' private lives play out so publicly was incredibly destructive for all of us – someone had to step up and protect her, and I knew that person was me," the 19-year-old says, speaking exclusively from the family home he shares with Cass and his younger siblings Ava, 13, and River, 12, in Sydney's lower north shore.
Much has been made about the Stefanovics' home life since Karl and Cass announced their decision to divorce.
In April 2018, rumours of a rift between father and son escalated when Jackson changed his name on social media from Stefanovic to his mother's maiden name of Thorburn.
And when Karl said "I do" with Jasmine Yarbrough in December, reports emerged that Jackson and his siblings did not attend the ceremony, despite travelling to Mexico with their dad.
While he acknowledges the inconceivable hurt Karl's decision to leave his wife of 21 years brought, Jackson says, "What's done is done."
"Despite what's happened, he's still my dad," he adds. "I'll leave it there for now – who knows what happens next."
And mum Cass, 47, is certainly doing all in her power to move on, trying her luck on Ten's reincarnation of Dancing With The Stars.
But going on the show hasn't been without its challenges – Cass has faced a barrage of criticism from the DWTS judges and members of the public alike.
"The gutless trolls online and the vile comments posted in public forums, they're not keyboard warriors, they're cowards," Jackson says of the cruel taunts his mum has faced.
WATCH: Cassandra Thorburn and Marco de Angelis hit back at judge Craig Revel Horwood on DWTS. Post continues after the video...
"I can't imagine any one person can have that much hate towards someone they don't even know – it makes me sick."
"In saying that, I admit I did have some concerns about her limited dance abilities!" he laughs.
"When she told me she was thinking about doing it, I said something like 'Mum, you can't f*ing dance!' I studied ballet for 10 years. I was brutally honest with her, but it actually made her more determined!
"My only advice to her has been to have fun, forget trying to remember the steps, and just feel the dance."
A measured young man with a gentleness and sincerity well beyond his years, it comes as no surprise Jackson not only looks up to his mum, but also his grandad.
"My greatest male role model will always be my mum's dad, Max Thorburn. He was the best grandfather anyone could wish for. He passed away last October after a long battle with cancer."
"Poppy was a man of integrity, and while I may be a Stefanovic, I'm so proud of my Thorburn genes. Thankfully, our Nana Pat is still alive – she's an incredible woman," he says proudly.
With Cass doing all she can to put her life with Karl behind her and begin afresh, Karl's world has seemingly come crashing down around him in recent months.
While he and Jasmine, 34, were on their honeymoon, he was unceremoniously dumped from Today after endless scandals and a massive ratings fall. Despite an ongoing contract with Nine, his next move remains undecided.
Jackson will not weigh into the debate about whether his father has any hope of repairing his public image after falling so hard from grace.
"I'd rather comment on my mother and her remarkable courage to hit that dance floor and life in general with such energy," he says proudly.
"Watching her, I'm reminded how she gives everything 100 per cent, whether that's being the world's best mother, or just nailing the cha-cha-cha. She is amazing!"
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Prizes To LoveMar 04, 2021