v Copyright 2023 Marline E. Pearson mutuality, kindness, caring about the other’s feelings and experience, and equality are important. Young people will examine some of the essential conversations to have to discover if partners are on the same page as adults before they engage in sexual activity. This curriculum encourages teens to develop goals, boundaries, and a context and timing for physical intimacy that is in line with their values, protective of their own aspirations in life, and personally meaningful. Finally, in their journal, participants will develop a personal plan to stay true to their boundaries and intentions regarding sexual activity. Medically accurate information on pregnancy, STIs, contraception, and condoms is included. The decision-making challenges are reinforced through films from Scenarios USA (written by youth and produced by award-winning filmmakers), as well as other visual media, and role-plays and refusal skills that are inclusive. Woven into the program is new content on navigating relationships and intimate life in the digital age. Several topics such as the role of texting, sexting, social media, and internet pornography are explored. A New Message on Pregnancy Prevention Many of our pregnancy prevention messages focus on a young person’s self-interest in how a pregnancy would negatively affect them. Relationship Smarts PLUS takes a different track. It encourages young people to step outside themselves and look more deeply at the consequences of unintended pregnancy on children. By placing the child at center stage in a few activities, participants are asked to generate a wish list of needs and wants “through the eyes of a child”. Further, they are challenged to identify what might help parents provide these for a child. This approach taps a more powerful and positive source of motivation to avoid sliding into sex and potentially an unintended pregnancy. It helps bring home to all young people why it matters to be a planner—to wait to have a child—if children are a part of their vision—until their lives are more settled with their education/ training, employment, and married. An Activity and Media-Based Approach This curriculum is delivered entirely through activities that are informative, fun, upbeat, and affirming of teen experiences. Relationship Smarts PLUS is packed with lively activities that use scenarios written by diverse youth. It incorporates popular music, music videos, film, stories, poetry, drawing, sculpting, and an engaging, interactive journal that helps teens apply curriculum concepts to their own lives. The Trusted Adult-Teen Connection activities for each lesson are designed to convey core material to parents or a trusted adult and serve as a catalyst for parent/adult-teen conversations on these very important issues. Parent/adult-teen connectedness has been found to be the strongest protective factor against risky behaviors, even beyond class, race, and family structure.3 These connection activities provide a way to partner with parents or trusted adults and mentors in helping teens navigate the choppy waters of adolescence.
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