I’ve read before that many children feel guilty when their parents divorce, as if Mom and Dad might not have separated if they’d only behaved better. Haymen mentions this, but she also goes on to make a great point that I hadn’t considered before:
“Children often hit out and kick back at the adults in their life who seem safe and steady rather than risking alienating those they feel are vulnerable or unreliable . . .While I cringe to be thought of as “disposable,” it’s reassuring to think that a stepchild might be acting out not because they don’t like you or they’re a bad kid but because they’re afraid to share their feelings with their bio-parents.
The anger and guilt they feel for themselves is often directed outwards, towards the person they feel best able to hate – the step-parent. They can hate the stepparent because they perceive this newcomer as disposable, and not their responsibility.
They may be hampered at letting loose to their own parents . . . Some kids find it frightening to show their feelings to the parent they live with, in case they ‘up and leave’ as did the non-resident parent. Some find it hard to show anger or pain to the non-resident parent, in case they go one step further than leaving by cutting off all contact.”