By Colleen Reed, Program Director and PEP Parent Educator, and Carol Hoffman, PEP Parent Educator
Ahhh, spring. That wonderful season of renewal, color, and sunshine. It’s also the time of year when hundreds of marathon runners begin their weekly training runs. Long-distance endurance events have exploded in popularity in recent years, with millions of people participating in marathons and other long-distance runs annually.
The image of hundreds of marathon runners-in- training struck me as I watched my husband set out on a training run recently. The training of a marathon runner is the perfect metaphor for those of us on a parenting journey. We’re not training or parenting for today, we’re training and parenting for the long haul. Talking about this with PEP Leader and marathon runner/coach Carol Hoffman recently, we found striking similarities between PEP’s parenting classes and our Sunday morning running and swimming activities.
Community. There’s no better motivator to get out of bed early on Sunday mornings than a group of friends waiting for you at the trailhead, pool, or gym. When you train with a group, you can go farther with everyone encouraging each other. Parenting classes create a dedicated time to “train,” dive in to our similar parenting challenges and check in weekly to share updates and successes.
Coaching. To go from couch potato to 5K runner, you need a plan. Coaches break it down into steps, teach the core techniques, and motivate us to tackle each challenge. To get started, some runners just run one block at a time. For parents, sometimes we have to take it a day at a time. At PEP, parents arrive hungry for encouragement and bogged down by daily frustrations. With a coach, we are reminded of what helps to solve the problems we face. Friendly coaching support puts us back on the trails or parenting path with new insight and strategies to move forward.
Keep the end goal in sight. As runners and swimmers envision their upcoming race in detail, including how to prepare ahead of time and how to power through the fatigue, they focus on what constitutes success at the finish line. Is it running the whole race without walking? Or setting a pace that avoids fatigue halfway through? Parenting requires the same level of detailed, strategic planning. How can I set limits to teach my child about making good decisions? We focus on setting long-term goals for our children – with reaching adulthood as the finish line – so the daily decisions that we as parents make move our children towards those goals of (for example) independence, empathy, and self-confidence.
In your daily outside activities and parenting moments, consider that your efforts to move forward might be even more personally rewarding in a community, with a coach, and an end goal in sight.