It Starts With Respect
Romantic relationships are always a tricky business, but no more so than for pre-teens and teens who are still figuring out their bodies and hormones. The highs are higher and the lows are lower, and their developing maturity levels don’t always match up with each other or allow for adequate communication.
It’s becoming increasingly important to discuss the characteristics of healthy relationships and dating habits with our kids—we can’t just assume they’ll figure it out on their own. Studies show that dating abuse can start as early as middle school and that 10% of Indiana high school students experienced physical violence in their dating relationships in the past year. As alarming as these statistics are, we can prevent teen dating violence—as well as dating violence beyond the teen years—by teaching our children what makes for happy, safe relationships.
“Teens are often struggling with understanding what is and what isn’t okay. Mentioning that emotional abuse is just as serious as physical was good advice.”
Our CARE™ program, Communicating with And Respecting Each other, helps teens learn how to communicate effectively in romantic relationships. Developed in collaboration with the Domestic Violence Network and adapted from the evidence-based program Relationship SMARTS™, CARE addresses teen dating violence prevention and focuses on all dating relationships, whether they are impacted by violence or not. We teach essential interpersonal communication skills, including verbal and nonverbal communication, which are so important in this hi-tech age of cell phones and other digital devices. All class discussions are offered in a safe, nonjudgmental, co-ed environment, where students are respected and encouraged to ask questions freely.
What Students Learn:
Day 1: Healthy Relationships
- Identify the different types of relationships they are a part of, including family relationships, friendships, and romantic relationships
- Gain an understanding of values and the important role shared values play in healthy relationships
- Brainstorm aspects of healthy relationships and use them to describe how a healthy romantic relationship is built on a solid foundation of shared values and positive characteristics
Day 2: Communication in Relationships
- Discuss how communication happens in healthy relationships
- Explore the benefits and challenges of using digital communication to engage with dating partners
- Discuss the risks of sexting and gain an understanding of consequences associated with participating in this risky behavior
- Develop skills to refuse a request for an inappropriate photo or video
Day 3: Violence in Relationships
- Learn to recognize characteristics of dangerous relationships and the warning signs of potential abuse
- Develop skills for reporting dangerous relationships, including how to use text lines and on-line apps to anonymously seek help to leave an abusive relationship
Day 4: Understanding Consent
- Discuss the concept of consent and understand that consent is when both partners communicate an enthusiastic “yes”
- Learn to articulate the importance of clearly expressing wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings in a relationship
- Define and discuss rape and learn appropriate courses of action to take if they or someone they know has been raped