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February 11, 2022

What can we learn from the Olympic Games?

Many of us enjoy watching the Olympics and witnessing the feats of athleticism, strength, and endurance on display. However, the new Olympics motto reminds us of some of the less obvious qualities the Olympians have. Faster, higher, stronger – together. We’re reminded that every individual athlete is the product of a team of supporters who have encouraged, coached, and rooted for that person. These supporters can be family members, and friends, but are often also the other competitors.

It can be very exciting for all of us to learn about the sports, rules, dedication, and challenges the athletes have faced along their paths to this incredible world stage. Some children will find fascination in the sports themselves, while others may be more interested in the emotions on display, the outfits, or some other aspect. Whatever draws your child(ren) to the Games, this is a perfect opportunity to expand on those interests and help them relate what they’re seeing to experiences closer to home.

For example, children who are interested in sports can observe the competitions carefully, paying attention to the athletes’ movements and strategies. Many children enjoy mimicking the motions of figure skaters or may want to re-enact sports like the bobsled or luge on snow days. As parents, we can draw attention to the particulars of each sport. The rules each have their own purposes – many of which ensure the safety of the athletes. Discussing the importance of these regulations can help students to understand that boundaries exist in all areas of life. The clothing the athletes wear both before and during competition serve specific functions to keep them warm, help with aerodynamics, and celebrate the nations they represent. 

Modern coverage of the Olympic games includes a fair amount of human interest coverage concerning the athletes’ emotional and physical journeys. While these stories can be inspiring, they can also cause young children to feel concern. If you watch this coverage with your children, remember to provide framework and context. Framework might sound like an explanation of the specific challenge an athlete is overcoming in the depiction. An athlete who appears lonely because she has to quarantine alone after testing positive for COVID may make children feel sad or concerned. We can remind them that quarantines are temporary and are a way to show compassion for the other athletes by preventing infection of others. Vignettes about athletes’ previous successes and wins leading up to their Olympic qualification can spark children’s interest in particular sports. Watching the curling events might inspire a child to pretend with a broom. In these situations, we can find ways to foster that curiosity. The rules to curling are similar to bocce, which may be more accessible.

However you and your family choose to enjoy the Olympic Games, one thing to keep in mind is the camaraderie. We are watching the top athletes from all around the world perform their passions and that is a sight to behold in and of itself. But the love and encouragement they have for one another can remind us all of the importance of friendship and compassion.

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