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Olympic viewing: The sparks of family bonding can reduce ‘withdrawal’

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Petr David Josek/AP

(Read caption) Olympics viewing on TV allows for family bonding time over the exciting dream. Instead of a let down and withdrawal after two weeks of viewing, one mom's son will continue the Olympic dream hoping to compete in jiu-jitsu in Rio come 2016.

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Year after year we shoo the kids away from the television and worry about how to connect with them and then we find unity in front of the box, glowing with Olympic common ground, but one expert warns about managing what he calls "Olympic withdrawal."

In an interview this morning, Robert Thompson, the founding director Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, cautioned me that the uptick I am experiencing in family bonding with my husband and sons as we all whoop by the TV can have a wicked let-down when the daily date with excitement is all over.

“The Olympics is really amenable to viewing as a communal event because, if you’re the only one in the bleachers, a game isn’t as much fun to watch,” Professor Thompson explained. “It’s almost like this multi-day holiday effect. Which brings us then to the Olympic withdrawal. It’s like when the circus comes to town – you’re in heaven and then heaven packs up and leaves. Some people actually suffer depression afterwards. Some families may have very little in common and Olympics has potential to bring all those diverse aspects together and when it goes away, then everybody’s back to their own problems, communication devices, and segregated worries.”

We already had a bit of that experience last month as a family of avid Tour de France watchers. When the event wrapped this year, we had that gassed-out, moody swing. We went our separate ways, and all the bickering and shoulder shrugging that is typical in a home with four boys (three of them teens) and parents with busy lives did indeed seem a bit more sharp and edgy.

So Thompson’s words gave me pause to reflect and perhaps plan a bit more seriously how to counteract what is coming when the Olympic flame and TV go dark.

In our home, Olympics has been both a source of unity and education. It gave me a chance to discover one of my sons’ hidden Olympic dream about Brazilian jiu-jitsu for 2016.


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