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Teens connecting the dots
How can we support young people to develop critical thinking skills about dating relationships?
Safe Voices educators presented two different sessions of their Connect the Dots program to all eighth grade students at Oxford Hills Middle School, Mt Valley Middle School and TW Kelly Dirigo Middle school during the 2011/2012 school year.
These sessions consisted of activities designed to encourage dialogue of what might influence their ideas about dating relationships and create an opportunity for students to develop critical thinking skills about what they want for themselves in a healthy dating relationship and warning signs of a controlling and/or abusive relationship.
During the first session, classes were divided into small groups and students were asked to brainstorm answers, with there being no wrong answer, to eight questions on six large papers. The questions were –
- What are some of the stereotypes of how a boyfriend should be?
- What are some of the stereotypes of how a girlfriend should be?
- What are examples of healthy relationships behaviors?
- What are some examples of dating abuse?
- Why would someone choose to use abusive/controlling behaviors?
- What is the percentage of students who will experience dating abuse before they graduate from high school?
- How could you help someone choosing to use abusive behaviors?
- How could you help someone involved with someone choosing abusive behaviors?
Each paper was passed around so each group was able to answer each question. Students reported out to the large group the answers for each question which allowed the Educator to facilitate a dialogue which included a mix of facts and follow up clarifying questions.
During the second session, using an activity that highlighted the Teen Power and Control Wheel, students were introduced to the subtleties of controlling behaviors and the complexities of an abusive dating relationship.
This activity, while designed to raise awareness of warning signs of an abusive relationship, also allows for students to gain a better understanding of the fact that anyone could be a victim of dating abuse.
With this understanding, friends may be less victim blaming and more of a support system when someone they know and care about becomes involved with someone choosing to use abusive behaviors.
Isolating their partner from friends and family is a common tactic of someone choosing to use abusive behaviors with their partner.
This activity also encourages all students to think about how they choose to behave when having feelings they don’t know what to do with- such as jealousy. Jealousy is a normal emotion; it is how people choose to behave when they are feeling jealous that can make the difference between healthy and unhealthy situations.
Students identified strategies for handling jealous feelings.
While recognizing that these feelings are confusing and heart wrenching, some ideas were to make sure that there are other people in your life besides your partner, to be involved in activities that do not include your partner, and to encourage your partner to have their own interests and freedoms.
To support young people, continue the dialogue. Ask them how their relationships are and what they hope for themselves in a dating relationship.
Become informed about teen dating relationships at Safevoices.org and Loveisrespect.org.
If you have specific questions that can be addressed in this column, or for more information about the Oxford County Domestic Violence Task Force, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 364-9908.
For more information about Safe Voices, check out their website at www.safevoices.org.
If you are looking for information and/or support, for yourself or someone else, you can call their 24 hr. Helpline at 1-800-559-2927.