Olympics Watch: Quality time in front of the TV? The Olympics offers kids valuable lessons

Finding quality time with your family is tough. You’re busy. Rushed. Stressed. As you read this, you’ve probably got a baby in your arms, while you’re telling your oldest to go get something to eat.

Sometimes, the only thing you share as a family during the weekdays is your favorite show.

You don’t want TV to be your only reason for family time. But watching the Olympics as a family can be a good source of quality time.

watching olympics 290pxMy daughter is 4, and I’m excited to share the games with her. So far, she’s already a big fan of figure skating. While she was watching the figure skaters compete, she started twirling around the living room saying she’d like to compete in the Olympics. She can’t wait for everyone to see her beautiful dancing. The Olympics teaches kids valuable lessons about sportsmanship, athleticism, competition, passion and drive. When you’re watching the Olympics as a family, you can have some powerful conversations with your kids and impart a few life lessons, all while rooting for your favorite athletes.

• Talk about the importance of always doing your best — and how to deal with disappointment   

Every child will try, only to fail at something physical. Some are more gifted than others in any given sport. But all kids should learn to compete against their own standards.

medal

Kids should strive to do their best and go for gold in whatever sport they’re playing in, but they should also be prepared for disappointment.

I was blown away by Heather Kearney’s performance in women’s moguls, but she made a slight error and landed a little off after a jump midway through her run. She won the bronze.

While being interviewed immediately after her run, she was so heartbroken that when she started to say she could have done better she turned her back on the camera and started to break down.

I told my daughter how much Kearney trained for the games, and asked her how she would feel if a small mistake cost her a gold or silver medal. My daughter told me she would just cry and cry and be so upset. I used that as an opportunity to tell her that that no matter how mad we get at ourselves because we feel we’re falling short, we should keep at it. I also told her that competing was worth it: Kearney might not have snatched the gold, but she’s got a bronze to take home. And she should be proud.

• Reinforce a positive body image

Growing up, I have the most vivid memories of the 1984 Summer Olympics with gymnast Mary Lou Retton, who won five medals including the gold in the individual all-around competition.

Retton had the most solid, toned, awe-inspiring thighs. I wanted to be Mary Lou. I would run diagonally across our 15-by-15-foot living room and pretend to jump off the vault, throw my hands in the air, arch way back like a gymnast and declare, “Did you see me stick that landing?” My sister would roll her eyes and tell me to get out of the way of the TV.

Prior to the 1984 Olympics, I don’t remember wanting to emulate any other woman with muscular thighs. Retton instantly became the pinnacle of what a strong, athletic woman should look like. To this day, I don’t want skinny legs. I want toned, muscular thighs. I still want to be like Mary Lou and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

The Olympics can help us teach our children that athleticism is beautiful, and athletic people come in all shapes and sizes.

My daughter will sometimes ask if me I want to be skinny like pictures she sees in magazines or in commercials on TV, and I’m always quick to reply: I don’t want to be skinny, I want to be healthy so I’m working hard to be healthy.

With older children, you might also want to discuss the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs and the importance of competing fairly. Athletes are tested before performing in the Olympics and many can’t compete because they test positive.

• Teach your children to love to play

If you haven’t seen him already, you have to watch Sage Kotsenburg put the style in slopestyle. He chewed gum while flying down the mountain performing difficult flips and creative tricks to capture the gold medal in the first-ever Olympic snowboard slopestyle event.

His long dirty blond hair, mustache and beard look so much more “surfer dude” than “Olympic gold medalist.” While we see him as an athlete, he really is a talented artist. He’s found his niche and to watch him fly is breathtaking. I literally held my breath while watching him do jumps that appear so effortless for him.

You can tell from watching Kotsenburg that he has found his passion and he lives to do this. It’s not an event so much as he’s playing and loving his sport.

At the end of his run, I almost expected him to yell, “Look ma, I got gold just doing what I love!”

My children are still very young, so I have no idea what they’ll grow up to love. But I sure hope I can encourage them to be active and to love whatever sport they choose to try. I want my kids to learn to love to play first before they learn the competitive aspect of a sport.

• Drive home the importance of teamwork and sportsmanship

In the Olympics, there are more than a few examples of teamwork you can point out for your children. I wanted my daughter to realize behind every athlete is a team of people who support them, so I pointed out coaches and family members.

In one tear-jerking moment, Alex Bilodeau finished a run that won him the gold in men’s moguls then grabbed his brother from the sidelines and pulled him up over the barrier to give him a great big bear hug. Bilodeau said he did it all for his brother, who suffers from cerebral palsy. In Bilodeau’s opinion, his brother is the true hero and serves as a constant inspiration to him.

All kids, and not just those who will grow up to participate in the Olympics, need to learn the importance of serving as part of a team. Team building goes far beyond the playing field into real-life application.

I know I use teamwork every day working with supportive coworkers. I also know I’ll fare better in my overall health by having people around me to support my goals, from my friends who take me out walking and give me new healthy, low-carb diet tips to my hubby, who keeps saying that I look good as I struggle to lose weight.

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