Lasting Lessons from the Olympics and Paralympics

Lasting Lessons from the Olympics and Paralympics

Lasting Lessons from the Olympics and Paralympics

The Olympics and Paralympics represent far more than competitions. Here are some important life-lessons for children.

Children can learn a great deal from the experiences of athletes, coaches, and others who are involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Games. For example, parents can help children appreciate the joy of effort, accomplishment, and camaraderie.

The Olympics and Paralympics are a time to celebrate and build upon the enthusiasm generated by the athletes and coaches, and to learn from these representatives from countries across the globe. We cheer for their incredible achievements but also the pride they convey—in their abilities, their training and effort, their nations, and their fellowship. We also acknowledge the incredible planning, creativity, and coordinated work of those who came together so the Games could happen, especially at a time when COVID remains a persistent threat.

The Olympics and Paralympics reflect athletic triumph. They’re also about accepting one another’s strengths, weaknesses, and differences. Moreover, each course of events is a celebration of diversity. All the athletes, regardless of age, race, color, gender, or sexual orientation, convene excitedly and share two common goals. The first is to strive to do their best. And the second is to unite in the spirit of sportsmanship.

There are many opportunities for children to watch events unfold, and to learn the true meaning and value of diversity, good will, determination, and more. What can children learn? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Healthy Rivalries: Encourage discussion about the merits and drawbacks of competing in races or contests. For example, children can learn several things that they don't already know about a particular sport or athlete and then share their findings. They can investigate other countries' training regimens for a sport, and then compare them with their own country's training program. Or they can think about different pursuits where qualifications are stringent, or challenges are demanding (such as math Olympiads, chess tournaments, or dance and music recitals), and consider ways to prevail by combining confidence, competence, resolve, and grace.
  2. The Quest to Excel: Exceptional achievement is a process, not an overnight occurrence. Athletes who are at the top of their game, like performers who excel at their craft, know the value of training, practice, and commitment. Parents can show children how to develop a mastery orientation. A key to high competence in any area is purposeful and meaningful engagement over time in that area, with an understanding that risks, explorations, and failures are essential to the learning process…. This realization helps people persist over and beyond the stumbling blocks that are inevitable in every area of life. Children who purposefully tackle challenges and welcome setbacks as learning opportunities can achieve successes that those who are afraid to fail cannot.” (Being Smart about Gifted Learning. p.262)
  3. Sociability: People benefit from building relationships and collaborating. As individuals strive to extend their talents and passions they interact with others—and many become involved in local, regional, national, and international programs at increasingly challenging levels. Young, experienced, and seasoned Olympians and Paralympians weave dynamic and caring communities and share valuable perspectives. Parents can help children appreciate the importance of strengthening connections by modeling mindful habits and kind social practices.

Possibilities Abound

Kids learn from experiences that extend beyond themselves. Help children zero in on specific aspects of inquiry and learning as they might pertain to the Olympics and Paralympics. Examples of topics to consider include motivation; challenge; technology; tradition; planning and creative problem-solving; fitness; media; practice; emotions; and perseverance. Children can make a list of other topics that they’re curious to learn more about, and then think about these, and how they might apply to their own day-to-day circumstances.

The journeys of Olympians, Paralympians, and those who encourage their efforts are inspiring. Their stories are motivating, sparking new understandings, imagination, and awe. Children can read and hear about hard work, resilience, energy, support networks, and optimism. Parents are well-positioned to introduce these stories and to provide children with encouragement, reassurance, and guidance. They can help them learn how others have overcome setbacks and managed issues that arose (physical, social-emotional, motivational, or other)—including how they maintained equilibrium, developed their capacities and acquired professional help as needed.

Hopefully the lessons children learn from the Olympics and Paralympics will be remembered well past the concluding ceremonies, spurring children to be all they can be, in various kinds of arenas, and over the long haul.

About the Author:

Dr. Joanne Foster is a child development and gifted education specialist, and the multiple award-winning author of several books, including Being Smart about Gifted Learning: Empowering Parents and Kids Through Challenge and Change (co-authored with Dona Matthews, published by Gifted Unlimited LLC, 2021). For additional resources on creativity, learning, productivity, children’s well-being, and more, visit her website at

Being Smart about Gifted Learning provides up-to-date perspectives so that parents, grandparents, and teachers have current knowledge about how to support the development of giftedness, creativity, and talent in the children and teens in their lives. Dr. Dona Matthews and Dr. Joanne Foster address pressing questions and concerns, and share hundreds of resources in this third edition of their award-winning book. The authors focus on helping families find a healthy balance that will nurture children’s exceptional abilities, optimal development, and well-being. Being Smart about Gifted Learning can be ordered here at Gifted Unlimited LLC. (Coming fall, 2021.)

“This tremendous book describes how gifted education resources can be applied to nurturing talent broadly and inclusively across the population. The Optimal Match approach demystifies understandings of giftedness, and brings common sense to conceptions of meaningful learning at home, school, and elsewhere.”

~ Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., Columbia University

This book will prompt re-examination of many long-held beliefs!”

~ Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., Stanford University

“Matthews and Foster highlight the importance of an appropriate education for gifted and talented students with the concept of an optimal match between students and their learning environments…The ideas in this book represent an important conceptual framing that will help gifted and talented programs serve broader and more diverse populations of students.”

~ Frank Worrell, Ph.D., U C Berkeley, American Psychology Association President-Elect, 2022.

“Drs. Matthews and Foster have given us a comprehensive, intelligently designed and brilliantly crafted book written with extraordinary understanding and compassion.

~ Felice Kaufmann, Ph.D., U.S. Presidential Scholar

“Rich with examples, this book highlights the importance of an optimal match between challenging and engaging school and home experiences, and opportunities to develop gifts and talents! A practical, thoughtful contribution by two leading experts!”

~ Sally M. Reis, Ph.D., University of Connecticut

comments powered by Disqus