Connections: Dating & Emotions

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Course Summary

Connections: Dating and Emotions is structured around topics that teens of both sexes identify as important to learn about, backed by the latest research on adolescent issues and behavior.Encompassing 15 one-hour lessons, the course guides teens in learning how they relate to others in a dating situation, how to identify socially acceptable and positive dating behaviors, and how to recognize problem personalities or negative behavior patterns that damage relationships.  Students also discuss important issues regarding the management of emotions that are typically associated with falling in love, dating, and breaking up.Connections: Dating and Emotions helps young people gain a better understanding of who they are now, what relationship expectations drive their behavior choices, and what factors are important for future success.  By actively exploring these issues,  teens gain knowledge from past experiences that can be helpful for setting new goals and moving forward.

Overview and Rationale

Eric Erikson theorized in his Stages of Psychosocial Development that the adolescent and young adult years are characterized by two developmental stages: Identity vs. Role Confusion and Intimacy vs. Isolation.The first stage, Identity vs. Role Confusion, is experienced during early adolescence and is a time of searching personal boundaries to establish an integrated self. Maturational changes are simultaneously occurring within the individual in a number of critical areas: physical development toward adulthood, regulation of emotional expression, increased cognitive abilities, and expanded social interactions. While these changes are normative and expected, the new emerging self presents the adolescent with uncharted situations requiring skills that have not yet been mastered.Having friends, being part of a peer group, and feeling valued are of primary concern to the majority of young people during the adolescent years. Friends provide a circle of support as a young person tries out new experiences in order to learn what behaviors are acceptable and unacceptable to the group and society at large. How well a young person adapts to the added expectations of growing up will be partially determined by the degree of self confidence he or she has developed during the childhood years. If one does not have a secure sense of personal identity and self-worth, trying to establish friendships or dating relationships can be a source of confusion and disappointment.
Adolescents are adults-in-training who often feel more vulnerable than they act. While outwardly teenagers may appear confident and in control, most will admit they lack the depth of life experiences of older people, particularly those whom they know and respect. Too often young people engage in adult activities such as the use of alcohol or sexual behaviors without the emotional maturity to handle the situations responsibly. Also on the rise among teens are drug use, behavior problems, depression, truancy, and dropping out of school before graduation.When a young person is able to exercise greater control over emotions and behaviors that impact his/her immediate or long-term future, the likelihood for success in these areas is dramatically improved. Increased awareness of the internal and external factors that contribute to one’s overall well-being is a major factor in the maturation process. Learning necessary life skills in the areas of self-regulation, communication, caring, and sharing can significantly increase confidence in one’s ability to make decisions that produce positive outcomes. Developing a comfortable and consistent identity is an important foundation for moving on into adulthood.One of the greatest challenges facing today’s youth is the process of building healthy interpersonal relationships, due in part to changes within the modern family structure and an increase in the use of technology as a method of social networking.

In Erikson’s second stage of young adult development, Intimacy vs. Isolation, he addresses the potential issues of establishing close and meaningful relationships outside of the family. As the older adolescent becomes more independent from parent and sibling relationships, there is a natural and necessary desire to develop new relationships that are significant. When early childhood experiences have provided a positive model, it serves as a foundation for better choosing good friends or dating partners during the teen years and beyond. Building intimacy with others becomes a natural extension of behaviors already learned.But many young people grow up in family situations that have not provided adequate life preparation to help them connect successfully with others.Adolescents who have not experienced the benefits of close, loving relationships at home as a model are left to fill the void of intimacy with guesswork. For these young people building solid friendships or recognizing the difference between unhealthy and healthy behaviors becomes a more difficult task. If numerous attempts at closely connecting with others have not worked out, it is easy to understand why some young people become confused about or disillusioned with the hope that lasting personal relationships will happen for them.There can be unforeseen risks for young people regardless of the type of family they come from. Even teens who have been parented well may find the road of relationship to be a bumpy one. For instance, people who grow up in a loving but sheltered home environment may be more trusting of others and less aware of negative partnership pitfalls. A very caring but inexperienced teen may choose to date someone who is actually unhealthy for him or her. They may
unrealistically believe they can help or change the other person’s situation or behaviors.In fact, there are no relationship guarantees for anyone. Because a person is raised in a great family does not mean they will automatically be a great dating or life partner. In the same way, someone who comes from a disrupted family background should not automatically be assumed to be a bad partner. In truth, everyone can benefit from guidance in learning how to think more clearly about dating or eventual marriage expectations. The key is to understand important relationship concepts and go slowly in order to make good decisions when choosing friends or dating partners and expressing deep emotions.Dating is an important part of an adolescent’s social life. Whether it’s casual dating or a longer-term relationship, going out with someone special provides the opportunity for older adolescents to feel valued and develop skills that will be helpful to them throughout life. Close friendships, increased mobility and activities, and interaction with others at school or in the workplace broadens the sphere for finding someone to go out with. Each new relationship challenge offers additional insights for personal growth as well as a better understanding of what is needed to build meaningful and lasting love relationships.Although some teens have not had the advantage of positive relationship experiences to draw from, they can still learn the skills that will prove to be successful for them for the future. Healthy, lasting, loving life relationships don’t just happen. They are the result of real concepts and behaviors that can be understood, recognized and applied in everyday situations. These factors are the basis of this relationship program.