The Summer Olympics: A Family Affair

I spent my childhood summers on the Connecticut shore.  From late June until the first day of school, we left our lives behind and enjoyed summer on the beach.


We enjoyed tennis, sailing, swimming until all hours, crabbing, climbing rocks, and, of course, sand castles galore.  The possibilities were endless.


We rode our bikes everywhere.  Apart from a grocery store trip here and there, we practically never got into the car.  We were surrounded by friends and given the freedom to go our own way in a little borough so safe that a parent was always nearby.


We were sun drenched and exhausted each night, having spent the day on the move.  So much so that TV was never necessary.  It wasn’t that restrictions were in place; it was simply that we didn’t crave it.  We were tired, content, and ready for sleep.


There was no battle to decrease screen time.  Sure, we watched the occasional show but, for the most part, we enjoyed the quiet.


Except during the summer Olympics.  During those summers, my mom would tune in a bit and show us various competitions.  We cheered for our athletes and watched in awe as those incredible men and women pushed themselves to new heights.


I loved every second of it.  And, I believe, I learned a lot from the Olympics.  I learned about following dreams, teamwork, and hard work.  I learned about optimism, sportsmanship, and setting goals. I learned about togetherness.


Fast forward to today.  Screen time is scheduled in our house.  Unless sickness descends upon us, our kids only tune in at certain times each day.  It works for us.  Sometimes a little too well (a mom needs to shower once in a while).  They don’t ask for more and they don’t protest when I hit the off switch.  They know the limits.


But this summer, I am happy to tune in a little extra.  This summer, I am happy to teach my kids the lessons I learned from Olympics past, and cheer on our athletes as much as possible.  As a result, Riley is planning our own backyard Olympics for this weekend.  She’s caught Olympic fever, for sure.


Below are five good reasons to tune in as a family this summer:


Promoting togetherness:  Chances are that when your five year old is glued to Jake and the Neverland Pirates you are probably washing dishes, folding laundry, and maybe even returning an email or two.  You’re probably not sitting side by side discussing the plotline of the show.  When you watch Olympic events as a family, you are actively engaged with your children during screen time.  You can discuss the various competitions and cheer for your country together.  There is a reason people throw parties to watch major sporting events:  It builds community and increases the fun factor.  Cheer together, learn together, and enjoy the experience together.


Geography:  Watching the parade during the opening ceremonies reminded me that I really need to brush up on my geography.  One thing that I love about the Olympics is that people from across the globe come together to compete.  Use this opportunity to teach your children about different countries and cultures.  Better yet, have a few International days:  Try some new foods, learn some key phrases, and pull up some pictures to show the kids the landscape.  Learn together.


Teamwork and rules:  I truly love the depth of competition during the Olympics.  I also love that even the individual athletes are competing for a common goal.  They each represent their country.  It’s powerful, when you stop to think about it.  Take this opportunity to highlight moments of teamwork.  Look up the rules of each sport to help your children understand how the competitions work.  Talk about working together to achieve victory.  Some people complain that there isn’t enough competition for kids these days, while others complain that there is too much.  In watching the Olympics, you have the perfect opportunity to show your kids what teamwork and sportsmanship look like.


Perseverance:  You don’t get to the Olympics by quitting when the going gets tough.  You have to work through the struggles and give it your all every day.  Talk to your kids about what it takes to become an Olympic athlete.  All of these athletes started out in the kiddie pool as toddlers, but they worked and persevered until their dreams came true.  The Olympics are an excellent lesson in determination.


Optimism:  It takes a positive attitude to reach difficult goals.  You have to believe in yourself and trust that your hard work will be rewarded.  Teach your children about the power of positive thinking.  Record some of the athlete interviews that highlight their childhood dreams.  This is a great opportunity to show our children that dreams are worth fighting for.


And then get out there and organize your own backyard Olympics…you can even download medals here!

About Katie

Katie Hurley is a Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychotherapist and Parenting Expert in Los Angeles, CA. She works in private practice in the South Bay area of Los Angeles, writes for PBS Parents, Washington Post Parents, and the Huffington Post. She is the author of "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World" (Tarcher/Penguin, 2015) and "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" (Penguin Random House, 2018)


  1. […] watch the Olympics nightly.  Often the kids watch too.  (Like Katie Hurley recently wrote – breaking technology rules is well worth it for something like the Olympics). […]

  2. […] watch the Olympics nightly.  Often the kids watch too.  (Like Katie Hurley recently wrote – breaking technology rules is well worth it for something like the Olympics). […]