4 Ways to Talk to Students About Dating and Relationships
To celebrate the month of love, we wanted to share a resource that will help you talk about dating and relationships with your students. In light of the #MeToo movement and a growing number of men and women sharing their intimate stories, it’s clear that it is never too early to start exploring these topics with kids and educating them about respecting boundaries, open communication, and what a healthy relationship looks like, whether romantic or not romantic. Based off the recent article, How to Teach Teens About Love, Consent and Emotional Intelligence, we summarized a few ways that educators can facilitate discussions and empower students to identify the quality of their relationships, and how they can be caring, respectful partners.
Create a space where open dialogue is welcome and supported.
Whether this is an after school club or a lunchtime chat, create a time when students who would like to learn or share their experiences can come and talk in an open, yet moderated environment. While students tend to learn values and morals at home, the research shows that peer groups also have a significant impact on child behavior and future outcomes. Students can share their positive and negative dating experiences, however a moderator, ideally a school counselor or psychologist, should be present to debunk myths and help students identify the difference between healthy and unhealthy interactions.
Share your own experiences.
Students mimic one another, but they listen to and respect their teachers, so it doesn’t hurt to share your own experiences and wisdom. It’s important to spend some time analyzing your past relationships, what made you happy and unhappy and what you would have done differently looking back today. Talk through these experiences with a close friend or therapist before sitting down with students. Remember- when sharing experiences and advice, don’t directly tell students what and what not to do- rather help them come to their own conclusions and talk through any scenarios that you think could use more exploring.
Use books and movies to talk about relationships.
Want to make it less personal? Choose some popular films or novels that portray different kinds of relationships. Facilitate a discussion around how the students understand the relationship, what the characters say, their actions, and the outcomes. Have them determine what is healthy and unhealthy and talk about why.
Facilitate empathy-building exercises
Empathy is key in helping children understand one another and enter into mutually respectful relationships. Exercises that allow students to share their feelings, thoughts, likes and dislikes can help students build empathy and appreciate one another’s differences. Many of the Move This World social emotional learning exercises are designed to foster empathy including Circle of Trust, What’s the Diff, Match Maker, Speak Easy and many more. They are an easy, quick way to strengthen these skills that are crucial for students to have healthy relationships.
You can find more resources for teaching students about healthy relationships at all levels here.