iii Copyright 2023 Marline E. Pearson Introduction Relationship Smarts PLUS SRA is a lively, 13-lesson, evidence-based relationship skills curriculum for young teens. This curriculum embodies an innovative approach that addresses positive youth development, life skills, healthy relationships, dating violence, and STI/HIV and pregnancy prevention. These goals, typically addressed in separate programs, are integrated and embedded into one comprehensive healthy relationship skills program. Relationship Smarts PLUS builds assets and strengthens protective factors. It appeals to teenagers’ aspirations rather than merely emphasizing what they must avoid. It empowers youth with skills needed to form and maintain healthy relationships, make wise sexual choices, and work toward their goals. All youth, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, have attractions, emotions, and desires for respectful, healthy relationships. All youth benefit from sexual risk avoidance. All youth need skills and knowledge to navigate their relationships and make wise sexual decisions. This is an inclusive curriculum. Sexual and gender minority youth is increasingly becoming the common term. But because it has not yet become widely adopted by youth themselves, we will be using the more commonly recognized term LGBTQ+. Building Models and Confidence for Healthy Relationships Many young people today lack models of healthy relationships. A Child Trends survey of disadvantaged youth reported that while respondents could list general qualities for healthy relationships, and certainly aspired to have them, when asked if they actually saw many around them, the answer was “no.”1 Sadly, they said they had little confidence they would be able to achieve a healthy relationship despite their aspirations to develop one. Relationship Smarts PLUS aims to build confidence and skills. It offers guidance on navigating the world of romantic relationships. Teens learn that healthy relationships begin with the individual— identifying personal strengths and weaknesses, understanding how one’s past influences the present, and the importance of attending to one’s own growth and development. Relationship Smarts PLUS offers knowledge of what a healthy relationship is and isn’t as well as insights and skills for handling the early chemistry of attraction and choosing partners wisely. Teens learn the building blocks of healthy relationships and are encouraged to identify relationship qualities they find personally important. They are provided principles to guide them in early relationship development. Frameworks to assess relationships are employed to help teens in relationship decision- making. They are provided a low-risk strategy, Decide, Don’t Slide!, model to guide them in reducing the potential for high-cost consequences of risky behaviors and attachment to problem people. Relationship Smarts PLUS builds teens’ awareness of the red flags of unhealthy and abusive relationships and ways to exit those relationships safely. Teens are encouraged to set boundaries and practice drawing the line of respect at the first sign of disrespect in a relationship. Teens learn how to handle breakups and move forward.
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