Program Length: 11 Lessons
Age Group: 13-18
Author: Charlene Kamper, MA, CFLE
A Curriculum for Health Classes
Health classes are an important forum for teaching relationship skills to teens — but the concepts can be difficult to communicate. The innovative Healthy Choices, Healthy Relationships program simplifies the task with effective instructional materials that easily integrate into existing content.
Fully aligned with national standards for health education, Healthy Choices, Healthy Relationships introduces students to the foundations of forming strong, satisfying relationships. In 11 lessons, they examine how peers, family, and media influence expectations about love and life. They discuss appropriate friendship and dating behaviors, identify and prepare for potential problems, explore the nature of mature interpersonal behavior, practice decision-making and problem solving, and learn other life skills necessary for overall wellness.A recurring theme is the importance to teens of making informed choices about their relationships, their goals, and the way they live their lives. A variety of lively activities challenge them to consider, evaluate and personalize messages from the lessons.
Healthy Choices, Healthy Relationships comes in a ready-to-use format, including individual and group activities, customizable PowerPoint slides, and posters.
The Healthy Choices, Healthy Relationships program was created to meet existing (or expected) Health Education framework guidelines and learning standards in most states. Designed for flexibility, the material is suitable as either a subject specific stand-alone unit, or as infusion lessons for an established curriculum.The underlying goal of Healthy Choices is to help adolescents prepare for optimum success in relationships that are central to life. Throughout the lessons, the participants gain information and skills for improving individual wellness, self-esteem, and the ability to relate to others in healthy ways. A variety of activities increase awareness of what motivates their current behaviors and how life choices result in either positive or negative consequences. Some specific topics include:
- Evaluating media, cultural, and family influences that influence expectations about love and life;
- Understanding important developmental differences between the adolescent brains of boys and girls;
- Identifying socially acceptable and positive dating behaviors;
- Recognizing and protecting themselves from negative dating situations;
- Showing caring and consideration to others;
- Improving decision-making and stress management skills;
- Setting personal short-term and long-term relationship goals.
Throughout the program, students are encouraged to self-regulate emotions and take responsibility for behavior choices, particularly those that impact others.
The Healthy Choices Instructor’s Manual uses a ready-to-teach, step by step format for maximum impact with minimal preparation time. The Manual also contains lesson background information, PowerPoint slides, lesson-by-lesson activity resources as well as participant worksheets and handouts that can be copied as needed. or can be supplied in booklet form based on the instructor’s preference.Lessons are designed so that evaluation of achievement is more qualitative than quantitative. Instructors are encouraged to focus more on process and continuing growth than on a specific measurable product. Homework assignments, which are optional, serve to extend the lesson’s purpose or lead into a new lesson, and actively involve participants in their own learning.
In addition to health education classes, this unit is most directly applicable in family living, family and consumer science, and after-school programs. Other appropriate settings include pregnancy prevention programs, pregnant and parenting teen programs, community, recreation, and faith-based youth organizations, and the Juvenile Authority.
Lesson 1: The Teen Brain
The effect of chemical (hormonal) differences between males and females during the body and brain developmental changes of adolescence. – The foundation for understanding emotional responses, Decision making, and self-regulation topics that will be introduced later in the program.
- Develop a better understanding of how adolescent brains work.
- Identify the different chemicals that manage the male and female brain.
- Gain insights into why boys and girls think, feel, and act differently through the teen years.
- Boys and girls think and respond differently to things because their brains are different.
- Individual brain differences as well as gender differences are due to life experiences and brain chemistry.
- The teen brain is going through a major growth period during the adolescent years.
Lesson 2: Media Messages
A framework for analyzing role modeling as presented by pop culture, TV, and movies. Explores social messages that influence behavior and relationship expectations.Student Objectives:
- Discuss differences in social messages for males and females.
- Evaluate realistic vs. unrealistic gender-role expectations.
- Identify positive role model sources.
- Understand why identity achievement is an important goal of development.
- Identity formation is an important process typical of the adolescent years.
- Identity role-confusion can occur when a person’s self-perception does not match social expectations.
- Media plays a large role in shaping a person’s belief system regarding acceptable behaviors and self-worth.
Lesson 3: Peer and Family Influence
How interaction with peer groups and family influences behaviors and relationship expectations. Students will evaluate current behaviors for safety or risk factors.Student Objectives:
- Understand how parents and peers influence behaviors differently.
- Identify changes in behaviors they have experienced due to peer pressure and belonging to a larger social group.
- Peer influence becomes stronger during the teen years.
- Peer groups establish the “rules of engagement” for being part of the group.
- Peer influence can be positive and supportive or negative and destructive.
- Parents still influence more of the core values; political and religious viewpoints, education goals, etc.
Lesson 4: Abuses and Excuses
Typical abuse behaviors and belief systems; including the abuse cycle, manipulation and control patterns in relationships, and patterns of emotional and physical mistreatment.
- Recognize what typical abuse patterns look like.
- Identify differences in how girls and boys approach relationships.
- Understand that abuse is not acceptable in a relationship.
- Research has identified stages in a dating cycle.
- Girls tend to be less able to recognize the signs of abuse and more willing to deal with abusive partners
- Most victims of dating violence are girls.
- Abusers hide their intentions so negative behaviors may not be evident until later in the relationship.
- Verbal attacks, stalking, threatening behaviors, and bodily harm are common intimidation tactics used by abusers.
- Males have difficulty interpreting some behaviors as abusive.
Lesson 5: Smart and Safe
The importance of safety planning for self and others. Protective strategies that demonstrate personal responsibility when dating and how to reduce the likelihood of a dangerous situation developing.
- Learn strategies for proactive behaviors regarding personal safety.
- Understand the need for developing a safety plan before negative situations happen.
- Prepare ways to self-protect if an uncomfortable or unsafe dating situation develops.
- Protective strategies help reduce the likelihood of a dangerous situation developing.
- Young people in abusive relationships have behavior patterns that can be recognized by parents and others.
- Communicating personal limits and values helps young people set healthy boundaries within a relationship.
- Because young women are more often the victims of abuse, girls need a safety plan for going out.
- Positive behaviors are the responsibility of both partners.
Lesson 6: Bullying and the Bystander
The issue of bullying, what those behaviors look like, who is likely to demonstrate the behaviors, and how to handle the situation if it happens.
- Identify bullying behaviors.
- Understand the impact of bullying on themselves and others.
- Develop strategies for self-protection.
- Two primary influences on promoting bullying behavior are the media and the family.
- Bullying is an inappropriate way to establish status
- Verbal bullying is the most common form, but boys are more likely to experience physical bullying, and girls are more often the target of sexual comments and rumors.
- Cyber-bullying is the most recent form of bullying.
- All bullying causes negative psychological issues for the victim.
Lesson 7: Care, Consideration and Respect
A guide for active practice in showing care and respect for self and others. Improvement in these skill areas will reflect on relationships with friends, family, and dating partners.
- Understand why caring acts are crucial to the success of interpersonal relationships in general.
- Identify personal skill areas.
- Focus on improving areas of weakness.
- Positive skills must be modeled and practiced.
- Healthy relationships are mutually supportive and beneficial for the people in them.
- Kindness and consideration toward others requires practice.
Lesson 8: Thinking it Through – Decision Making
How to make informed decisions using a decision-making model. The participants will learn that decision making often causes internal conflict which increases stress.
- Learn the basic steps of the decision-making model.
- Practice skills using a decision-making model.
- Recognize the four sources of conflict when making decisions, using the Conflict Identity and Resolution Model.
- Gut-reactions to situations do not often result in desired outcomes.
- Doing nothing about a situation is a course of action, but generally does not resolve the core issue.
- Learning how to think through situations and respond rationally is an important life skill.
- Most decisions will have either positive or negative consequences.
- Some decisions require more effort and therefore produce more conflict.
- Internal conflict increases feelings of stress.
- Identifying the source of the conflict will help resolve the issue and reduce the stress.
Lesson 9: Pulling Things Together
How to reduce stress that is often associated with making decisions and solving problems. Learning to recognize and manage stress is important for maintaining personal health and positive relationships with others. The lesson will present resiliency and stress management skills.
- Learn that some stress in life is normal and expected.
- Identify physical, emotional, and cognitive stress reactions.
- Work through a personal stress reduction plan.
- Healthy stress motivates and energizes. Distress is anxiety that makes a person feel threatened and overwhelmed.
- The general adaptation syndrome has three phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.
- Some stress is normative, for a person’s age and activities
- Other stress is non-normative: these are unexpected things that happen that are not experienced by everyone.
- Typical causes of stress: frustrations, daily hassles, conflict, life changes, and catastrophic events.
- Defensive coping for stress: drug use, aggression, withdrawal, suicide, and defense mechanisms.
- Active coping for stress: change situation or thoughts about the situation, get a hobby, exercise.
- Four life areas to keep in balance: relationships, health, things to do, fun.
Lesson 10: Setting a Course
How to direct choices toward meeting both short-term and long- term goals for establishing healthy relationships.
- Identify current expectations about how relationships grow.
- Understand the difference between short-term and long-term goal setting.
- Design a plan for reaching personal relationship goals.
- Success in relationships begins with awareness of what works, personal preparation, and determining clear goals.
- Extrinsic motivators come from outside and lose their appeal over time. Intrinsic motivators come from inside and generate a realistic and comfortable sense of self.
- High achievement is associated with positive emotions.
- Achievement is linked with effort.
- Both short-term and long-term goals require a plan.