A year later, Michael Jackson's kids still isolated, grieving

By Liz Kelly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 21, 2010; 4:22 PM

Like their father's own upbringing, the young lives of Prince Michael (13), Paris (12) and Prince Michael II (aka Blanket, 8) have been anything but normal. And a year after their father's death, Jackson's three children are still having a hard time processing their grief and adjusting to life without dad.

In the wake of Jackson's public memorial in July 2009, at which then 12-year-old Paris made a poignant speech about her father, speculation was rampant that a battle could loom for custody of the three children. But two months after Jackson's death grandmother Katherine Jackson was awarded custody and any rumored challenges to the ruling have long since dissipated. Though the kids' home life has hardly settled into a stable routine. Last week, longtime nanny Grace Rwaramba was reportedly fired after clashing with Paris about homework.

In a new interview with the U.K.'s Daily Mirror, grandmother Katherine Jackson opened up about the sadness and isolation the family is having a hard time shaking off.

Paris, said Katherine, has turned her room into a shrine to her late father and all three kids spend hours listening to his music. And they're still somewhat cut off from the world (For years Jackson kept his children out of the public eye and when they did emerge from his coccoon of privacy they were often shrouded -- literally -- in veils to prevent pix of the three getting into the press.).

"They don't have any friends," she told the Daily Mirror. "They don't go to school, they have private lessons at home."

Though Jackson family attorney Adam Streisand, in an interview with the Associated Press, said the three Jackson kids are "seemingly as normal as normal can be under pretty extraordinary circumstances" and that the large Jackson family has been a big source of support for the children.

And, according to Katherine Jackson, the isolation of the past year will end this fall when all three children enroll in "private college." And over the summer they'll get some time to explore as well. Uncle Jackie Jackson said the family plans to take the kids to visit Disney World and D.C.'s own Smithsonian offerings.

School and wider experience, says licensed clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, are both steps in the right direction.

"Encouraging new social opportunities by starting a more traditional school experience is indeed wise," said Bonior. "It will help them focus less on whose kids they are, and more on how they can be individuals and part of a community of peers-- very important at their ages."

As the Jackson kids emerge from their protective environment and have more experience as individuals, added Bonior, they will hopefully be able to put their grief for their father in perspective "without them having to be subsumed and defined by him."

On Friday, the family will gather at L.A.'s Forest Lawn Cemetery for a private memorial to mark the anniversary of Jackson's death.

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