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Running Together, Growing Together 

Running Together, Growing Together 

Cecilia Corbetta

Cecilia Corbetta

Regional Clinical Lead for London and West – Cecilia joined Place2Be in 2003, and holds national responsibility for Parent Work. She is a BACP accredited counsellor and clinical supervisor with over 17 years of experience delivering counselling, therapeutic services and supervision within schools and private practice.

There is less than a month until Children’s Mental Health Week (7-13 February 2022), and this year’s theme is Growing Together. In this blog, Cecilia Corbetta shares a personal story about the ways in which she and her child are growing together. 

Sunday morning, 7am – it's still dark outside. My daughter is fully dressed in her exercise clothes and announces, “we are going running".

It all started after her teacher had talked to the class about targets and how setting intentions help us grow and get better at things. On the way home from school, my 7-year-old explained to me, with a serious expression, that targets are very important because they help us focus on something we want to achieve. I asked her what targets she had set herself and she replied very confidently that she had two targets: making her handwriting smaller and neater, and “becoming a real runner like you, mamma”. 

In truth, I am not a runner. I am someone who periodically decides she would like to take up running ‘properly’. I have been very inconsistent with any training over the years. Little did I know this was all about to change.  

So, a new ritual has been established – every weekend, regardless of the weather, we set off for a ‘run’ with our greyhound and it has proven a wonderful opportunity to connect.  

There is something about being side-by-side that really helps to open conversations, especially when it comes to difficult things. We have been able to talk about things that are sometimes too painful to share face-to-face: worries about school, friendship issues, questions about Covid, illness, and death.

We are also working towards the shared goal to become stronger runners. This means setting small goals (“Let’s run all the way to that building without stopping”), celebrating small wins (going a little further week after week), and building resilience and the ability to self-motivate (“This is hard, but I can do it!”, my daughter now says about all sorts of situations). Running together has also meant learning to work as a team (“You hold the torch and I hold the dog lead”) and problem-solving along the way.  

Running can be wonderful. It can also be super hard. Some time ago, I had a fall when running over an icy path. I was pretty shaken as I recalled the incident when I got home. My daughter had lots of questions. I told her it had been scary, but that I got up, took a few moments to calm down, and walked home. 

I have always believed it is helpful for our children to witness how we handle challenges in our own lives.

On many occasions, my daughter has heard me complain that I really don’t want to go for a run, that it’s too cold, or I’m too tired… “This is hard, but I know it’s good for me and I always enjoy it in the end”, I would often say. I thought it would be useful to be open about how I motivate myself to do things that require effort, but are ultimately beneficial and even enjoyable. My daughter barely seems to notice my struggle to motivate myself to run so I wrongly assumed that she hadn’t noticed it.

As parents, it can be very humbling to realize how much of what we say and do influence our children. It was freezing cold last weekend, and when we returned from our run and settled down to hot chocolate, my daughter said to me “I get it, why you make yourself go for a run even when you don’t want to. It’s hard but it feels SO good afterwards”. Age 7 and she already has the mindset, drive, and resilience of a great runner. 

Our free Children’s Mental Health Week resources for parents and carers will help you explore the theme of ‘Growing Together with your child. Visit the Children’s Mental Health Week website to learn more. 

This blog was written in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the view of the organisation. 

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