A new documentary, which focuses upon British children whose parents have divorced, is set to air on BBC2 this week.
Mum and Dad are Splitting Up is based on interviews with young people and their parents, and explores the children’s experiences of their parents’ marriage breakdowns.
Director Olly Lambert aims to draw out “the complex feelings and secrets that took root in the family when mum and dad split up. In the process, both parents and their offspring find themselves asking questions of each other that have remained unsaid for years, and being frequently surprised by the answers.”
The 40-year-old documentary-maker says that the programme was inspired by his own experiences of family breakdown, 26 years ago:
“When it was over, my dad took my sister and me into the garden, and said he and my mum hadn’t been getting on very well lately and had decided to separate. I remember bursting into tears and running off to my friend’s house just to get away. It felt like a collapse of everything I had known, everything I knew I could rely on.”
Mum and Dad are Splitting Up features the story of Daisy (above), now 17, who thought that when her parents called her downstairs three years ago to break the news, they had just been having a chat and everything was fine.
“I just want to know why they broke up”, says Daisy.
Another interviewee, Darryl, was 10 when his parents’ relationship foundered. He recalls how, when they asked him to sit down, they were going to discuss holiday plans.
With the families sitting down together and the children asking their parents some difficult questions, the documentary explores the far-reaching effects of divorce upon children. Lambert, who has had therapy to help him come to terms with his own parents’ separation, says: “There seems to be a belief that when a couple separates, their children feel sad for a while afterwards but then things are OK – and yet the truth is that it’s much more massive than that
“It pervades everything; it changes everything in your life, way into the future. It doesn’t just change the next few months, it changes the next 50 years.”
The Guardian describes the programme as “required viewing for any divorcing couples who have consoled themselves with the thought that the kids would cope just fine”, but concludes that “the talking, when it happens, definitely helps.”
Mum and Dad are Splitting Up is on BBC2 at 9pm on Thursday 5 September 2013.