iv Copyright 2023 Marline E. Pearson Improving Communication Skills This program includes a powerful set of evidence-based skills to improve communication, assertiveness, negotiation, and the handling of conflict. These skills are adapted from PREP, the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program.2 Youth practice new ways to handle anger and regulate strong emotions. They learn a technique for how to talk through difficult or sensitive issues. They learn how to more effectively raise issues and complaints, recognize hidden issues, and solve problems within their relationships. The communication skills components are essential for success in all relationships— intimate, family, peer, school, and for cooperative interactions in the workplace. Strengthening Dating Violence Prevention Building robust knowledge and skills for healthy relationships provides a positive and proactive way to prevent dating violence. It is difficult to steer clear of or exit a destructive relationship if a young person has seen few healthy relationships and has little clue about how to form and maintain a healthy relationship. This problem is compounded if they have little insight into themselves, the influence of past experiences on their lives, and perhaps some unaddressed issues. The self-awareness, skills, guides, and frameworks in Relationship Smarts PLUS help raise young people’s confidence that they can develop healthy selves and healthy relationships. Relationship Smarts PLUS contains activities to identify early warning signs of abuse along with how to set boundaries and apply them at the first sign of disrespect. It also raises awareness of how children are harmed by turbulent and destructive parental and partner relationships. Content on sexual assault and consent, as well as sex trafficking prevention, has been added to this new edition. A Heart- and Health-based Approach to Pregnancy and/or STI Prevention Relationship Smarts PLUS contains a missing piece in sexual decision-making and STI and/or pregnancy prevention by addressing relationship issues. For example, can teenagers make wise sexual decisions if they: Have never clarified what’s important to them in a relationship and in a partner? Know little about how to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy, unequal and/or abusive relationships? Have seen few models? Lack communication and negotiation skills needed for relationships? Have never defined for themselves a context and timing for sex that is personally meaningful to them? Youth are rarely asked to think about sex beyond the usual health paradigm of reproduction, disease, and risk avoidance. Relationship Smarts PLUS offers a health- and heart-based approach to sexuality and provides unique ways to tap motivation from a positive angle. Sexual decision-making is embedded within a rich exploration of intimacy and the development of healthy relationships. Activities guide youth in cultivating their own North Star for their intimate lives. They are asked to develop goals, boundaries, and a context and timing for sex that is protective of their own aspirations in life and personally meaningful. Relationship Smarts PLUS encourages sexual ethics, i.e., that
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