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Healthy, Unhealthy or Abusive?

Toolkits help teach teens about relationships and dating violence

  • April 28, 2017
  • By domesticshelters.org
Healthy, Unhealthy or Abusive?

According to LoveIsRespect.org, dating abuse affects 1.5 million teenagers every year, with one out of every three adolescents abused emotionally, physically or sexually by a dating partner.

To help keep more teens safe from dating violence, Loveisrespect offers two free toolkits for educators to help kids learn more about healthy relationships. Targeted at middle school and high school teachers, the toolkits offer discussion guides on communicating, resolving conflict and stepping in if a friend might be in trouble. Sample scenarios help teens consider whether a relationship might be healthy, unhealthy or abusive. There are also tips that can help educators know what to do if they think a student might be experiencing dating violence.

The two toolkits offer age-appropriate modifications with an eye toward what teens may experience in middle school compared to high school. “The toolkits can help make it easier to start a conversation around healthy relationships and dating abuse,” says Cameka Crawford, chief communication officer for Loveisrespect.

“Educators can use the toolkits to customize the conversation,” she adds. “The toolkits are about giving educators something that will make sense in their community, since every school is not the same.”

The kits evolved from posters and resources Loveisrespect offered to teachers and principals in Texas for teen dating violence awareness month. “We wanted to create a resource, so we talked to young people and other partners. Listening to the calls and texts we get daily went into creating this,” says Crawford. “We didn’t want to create another curriculum, since it can be really cumbersome for educators to incorporate that into class.”

The free online downloads have been available for about a year, and Crawford reports that feedback has been positive. “What we have heard from students and teachers who have used them is that [the toolkits] make it easier for them to have a conversation,” she says.

Some educators incorporate the toolkits into a classroom activity. They are an obvious fit for health and wellness classes, and they can also work into English, reading or composition classes. “Really, any teacher could take them and leverage them in the classroom,” Crawford says.

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Many schools have afterschool clubs focused on healthy relationships and dating abuse, so educators who work with these clubs can incorporate activities and ideas from the toolkits. “Teachers who lead afterschool activities can bring together peer leaders or student leaders, and then the larger conversations can happen across multiple classrooms,” Crawford says. Some schools hold assemblies to address teen dating violence, and students can put up posters to support those messages.

Can Parents Use Them, Too?

While the toolkits are designed with educators in mind, parents, domestic violence advocates and others are welcome to use them. “At their core, the toolkits are all about having a conversation, and anybody can have that conversation,” Crawford says. “They’re really for anybody in that leadership role of educating young people and being in their lives.” Girl and Boy Scout troops, sports teams, and parents who homeschool can all take advantage of the resources the toolkits offer.