Stepmothers are great objects of fear and loathing in famous childhood tales. The only problem is they are never presented as loving and caring individuals. In real life the fear of a new stepmother children experience is known as Novercaphobia.
The fear experienced by children is actually pretty common and is likely tied to a fear of the unknown. The new stepmother can never replace a child’s own mother, but it may appear that they are stealing the affection of the children’s dad.
What Causes Novercaphobia?
The beginnings of this fear are introduced innocently through fairy tales and reimagined modern day tales. After all Cinderella had arguably the most despicable step mother around. Newer tales such as A Cinderella Story and Ella Enchanted make step mothers cruel to an entirely new audience.
Kids tend to fear a stepmother because they believe they will disrupt the balance that may exist in the home and then try to replace their mother. Secondly they feel as if the step mother will alienate the affections of their father. If the step mother brings children into the new marriage there will also be the feeling that she will side with her own children while seeking to affix blame on the children of her new husband.
In this regard the fairy tales of youth have done children a great disservice. The 21st century finds an abundance of blended families, and many stepmothers are proving to be caring and balanced in their approach to discipline and love.
Still, the images of a vindictive new parent often looms large in the minds of children who learn that their dad has set a wedding date.
Symptoms of Novercaphobia
Dread is probably the most common sign that you may be fearful of a stepmom. This dread can begin when you discover the upcoming marriage and continue in awkward and uncomfortable encounters with your step mom.
Other symptoms include…
- Visible discomfort around the step mom
- Air Hunger
- Intense anxiety
- Elevated heart rates
- Irregular heart beats
- Anger with dad for subjecting them to the object of their fear
It is interesting to note that dads often bear the brunt of their child’s resentment regarding the introduction of what is often considered an intruder.
How to Overcome Novercaphobia
One of the best ways to deal with this fear is before it becomes a phobia. In many cases a parent can work to reduce fear to a manageable level by making their children aware of what is happening and helping them understand what a remarriage means and does not mean. Assure children that your love for them will not change. Assure them that the new wife is not attempting to replace their real mom, but she will work to provide love and support they need.
Invite children to come to you with concerns before and after the marriage takes place.
If the fear is already ingrained and no previous assurances were made then your fear may remain strong. You may find help from a school counselor or might have a heart to heart conversation with your dad.
This fear may be present even if the step mother is as equally loving as the child’s real mother.