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Unhealthy Relationships

Teacher Guide by Patrick Healey

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Student Activities for Healthy Relationships Include:

One in three adolescents will be a victim of either verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse during their lifetime. Ignoring this topic in our schools will not lower these numbers. As teachers, we are limited to the small amount of time we have in our classrooms to make an impact on student decision-making. Aspects of unhealthy relationships can take many forms and be tough to talk about. The following lessons and resources will be another tool in your in classroom discussion.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Teacher Background on Unhealthy Relationships

The statistics of abuse in relationships are frighteningly high. Unfortunately, these numbers may be on the low end, considering some victims can be fearful to come forward. Only about 30% of abuse in unhealthy relationships gets reported. Not every victim or aggressor is atypical. LGBTQ individuals are equally or more likely to experience some form of abuse in an unhealthy relationship. Men are more likely not to report being a victim. During discussion, it is important to stress that the victim is not at fault for the abuse. Guilt is a common denominator when dissecting unhealthy relationships.

Our role as educators is to provide opportunities to help prevent unhealthy relationships. Talking about this topic is critical to stopping this norm from recurring. Understanding and offering ways to get help to students is important research to do before these activities. Loveisrespect.org is an excellent national program to reach out for help or to gain information. There is a 24-hour hotline for students to use by texting “loveis” to 22522 or calling (866) 331-9474. The national domestic violence hotline also has teen resources. Going over school safe zones, faculty members, and resources in the building should be a precursor to these lessons.


Essential Questions for Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships

  1. What are red flags of unhealthy relationships?
  2. What is the cycle of unhealthy relationships?
  3. Where can someone get help if they are or know a victim?

Healthy Relationships Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Cycle of an Unhealthy Relationship


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An important concept for students to understand when talking about healthy relationships is the cycles of unhealthy ones. Each relationship is unique and it may be tough to compare one to another, but when there is abuse or unhealthy aspects, there is usually a pattern. This pattern, or cycle, can start with the honeymoon phase, continue into the tension building phase, move into the explosion phase, and finally enter the honeymoon phase again, continuing the cycle. This cycle does not have to be a romantic relationship; friends and family can go through this cycle and find it hard to get out.


Honeymoon Phase

Everything seems to be going great with no issues or fights during the Honeymoon Phase. There may be apologies, gifts given, or promises made in order maintain the facade of a happy relationship. This is a time period the abusers use to manipulate the victim into believe everything is okay - or will be again.


Tension Building

The tension building phase is when the aggressor seems to be getting agitated at small things, often yelling, fighting, or controlling parts of the relationship. This phase is where many red flags occur.


Explosion

The explosion phase is where the attack takes place. There can be different examples of outbursts of intimidation, emotional and verbal abuse, even physical abuse. Following the explosion, there is often an apology and manipulation of the honeymoon phase in order to keep the victim buying into the relationship.


Getting out of an unhealthy relationship is dangerous and tough. Recognizing the cycle of unhealthy relationships is the first step. After teaching the topics, have students create a visual to help retain content understanding. Monitor students' creations for any inappropriate content. Students should not be using themselves or other peers a victims or aggressors. One idea is to use the highly expressive, but less realistic Stickies rather than the regular Storyboard That characters.

Cycle of Abuse

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows the unhealthy relationship cycle. Use different example relationships for each cell.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Title the appropriate cells with each phase and fill in the description with your own definition.
  3. Illustrate the meaning of the phase in each cell using a combination of school-appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


3 Cell Circle Layout

Example

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Crossing a Boundary


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We all set up our own boundaries in life sometimes without even thinking about it until we are seeing someone cross them. Introducing an activity to challenge student boundaries is a great prequel to this storyboard activity and will give your students ideas on what to create. An example exercise is called ‘peer to peer’. Have students find a peer and stand next to them. Ask them to perform fist to fist, which is when they ’fist bump’. Next ask them to perform ‘shoulder to shoulder’, which is when they lean on each other’s shoulders. Finally ask them to perform ‘forehead to forehead’. This is when you’ll see almost every student stop, say something, or show body language showing where their personal boundaries are. This activity will help them create the boundary expectations in the storyboard.

Have the students stay with their partner or with another pair to form a group of four to create a storyboard. In the storyboard, students will create what crossing a boundary looks like, sounds like, and feels like. The purpose of this storyboard activity is to allow students to think about their actions, read body language, recognize and understand verbal cues in real scenarios.

Crossing a Boundary

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard showing what crossing a boundary sounds like, looks like, and feels like using example scenarios.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Title the row ‘Boundaries’ and label the appropriate cells with ‘Looks Like’, ‘Sounds Like’ and ‘Feels Like’.
  3. Create an example scenario where a boundary is being crossed in the cell using a combination of school-appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


3 Examples Chart

Example

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Red Flags


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Unhealthy relationships do not start out that way at the beginning. If it did, we would recognize them and end the relationship before it got too far. What happens usually occurs during the tension phase in the cycle that was stated earlier. Detecting red flags as soon as possible is essential for the victim's safety. It’s important to practice identifying potential indicators of abuse. One safe way to do so is through creating storyboard examples. This activity could help develop the skill that can be applied to real world situations. Have the students create a three cell storyboard showing three different red flags. Anyone can be a victim or an aggressor, so having the students use different situations and characters for each cell is important.


Example Red Flags of an Unhealthy Relationship

The aggressor…

  • controls aspects of the relationship
  • separates the victim from their friends or family
  • is overly generous
  • talks badly about other people or past relationships
  • is possessive of the victim
  • uses insults to put down the victim
  • demands access to the victim’s phone/social media
  • feels as if they are never at fault
  • has unpredictable mood swings
  • is consistently angry
Red Flags of Unhealthy Relationships

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard showing different examples of red flags in unhealthy relationships.


  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Create an example of a red flag discussed in class in each cell using a combination of school-appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  3. In the description box, write a minimum of two sentences explaining the red flag.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


Blank Cell with Description

Example

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I Statements...


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Communication is one of the key components to a healthy relationship. Unfortunately for teenagers, this usually isn’t their strongest skill. At times students may find it hard to think about what they are saying before they say it. Changing what is said may be difficult, but teaching teens how to say what they are thinking is a realistic goal. One way to do so is with the introduction of ‘I Statements’.

When someone is trying to get their point across and the speakers says “you keep doing this” or “you keep saying that”, forces the listener to be in the wrong. The listener then goes on the defensive and often fires back with something. This is not an effective way to communicate. By simply changing the communication to themselves, “I think...”, “I feel...” and “I want…”, the listener then hears what their actions are doing to them. This activity is going to do just that. The students are going to be faced with a scenario where they must use I statements to communicate effectively. The scenario and resolution should be completed for them ensuring a positive outcome. The only cells students will be creating are the I statements.

I Statements

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Finish the story with examples of I Statements using I Think, I Feel, and I Want.


  1. Click “Use this Template” from the assignment.
  2. The scenario and resolution cell has been done for you.
  3. Finish the story by creating effective I statements from Sandrea in the three cells in between.
  4. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


I Statements Template

Example

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Safe Exit


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Getting out of an unhealthy relationship is difficult and potentially dangerous. It may be the best, but hardest, decision anyone has to make. A victim may be manipulated to the point of feeling like there is not a problem or it’s their own fault. It seems obvious to someone on the outside looking in for the victim to get out, but the victim may still be holding onto feelings from the honeymoon stage.

When they decide to end the relationship, it's important there is a safety plan in place. Some steps that should be taken is not doing it alone, having a cell phone around, not further angering the aggressor than needed to end the relationship, telling a trusted adult, and setting a time limit on the conversation to limit possible manipulation from the aggressor.

After discussing multiple ways and reasons why victims should get out of an unhealthy relationship, they will create a storyboard. Have students create a storyboard with six total cells identifying three safe and unsafe breakup techniques. This can be modified to a lower level by creating multiple scenes and having students identify the correct steps. Make sure each storyboard created by the students is appropriate for school; these topics can trigger others.

Safe Ways to End It

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard depicting three safe ways to end an unhealthy relationship and compare them to the unsafe ways.


  1. Click “Use this Template” from the assignment.
  2. Title the columns "Safe Breakup" and "Unsafe Breakup".>
  3. Create three examples of safe break up strategies discussed in class using a combination of school appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  4. Compare the safe methods to the unsafe versions in the cells using a combination of school appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  5. Title each row with the safe/unsafe method created.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


3x2 Chart Template

Example

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Unhealthy vs Healthy Relationship


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Being able to recognize unhealthy relationships may seem like an easy thing for student to do until someone is the victim. Being a victim of manipulation causes someone put up blinders and make excuses for behaviors. They may even feel guilt and at fault for causing the aggressor's behavior. Having students create goals and expectations for relationships is a good preventative measure to becoming a victim.

The goal of this exercise is to have students create an healthy and unhealthy relationship scenario for three different experiences. There is an example provided of different couples on a date, going through a crisis, and experiencing something that happens to teens daily. This activity is going to ask students to develop their own scenarios, but a teacher can modify by providing their own scenarios.

Asking students to use different characters for each relationship will help foster ideas without making them a victim. It is important for students to not create themselves or their peers to be a victim or an aggressor. By giving students the themes of each cell, you can help keep them creating appropriate and meaningful work. The examples given has chosen a date, crisis, and regular teen experiences. Having these vague concepts will allow creativity with some guidelines. The examples also used different relationships with different character. The goal was to convey the message that anyone can be a victim or aggressor.

Healthy VS Unhealthy

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Create a storyboard depicting three examples of healthy and unhealthy relationship scenarios.


  1. Click “Use this Template” from the assignment.
  2. Title columns, "Healthy" and "Unhealthy".
  3. Brainstorm three scenarios people can be faced with during their relationship and label the row appropriately.
  4. Create three scenarios in the "Healthy" column of positive goals or expectations using a combination of school appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  5. Compare the three Healthy examples to three Unhealthy examples using the same scenarios.
  6. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.


3x2 Chart Template

Example

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Additional Healthy Relationship Lesson Plan Ideas

  1. Vocabulary - Students create visual representations for vocabulary terminology.
  2. PSA Poster - “There shouldn’t be one in three.” Have students create anti relationship abuse posters to hang around the school.
  3. Getting Help - Students create different examples of victims asking for help.

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•   (English) Unhealthy Relationships   •   (Español) Relaciones Poco Saludables   •   (Français) Relations Malsaines   •   (Deutsch) Ungesunde Beziehungen   •   (Italiana) Relazioni Malsane   •   (Nederlands) Ongezonde Relaties   •   (Português) Relacionamentos não Saudáveis   •   (עברית) יחסים לא בריאים   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) العلاقات غير الصحية   •   (हिन्दी) अस्वस्थ रिश्ते   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Нездоровые Отношения   •   (Dansk) Usunde Forhold   •   (Svenska) Ohälsosamma Förhållanden   •   (Suomi) Epäterveelliset Suhteet   •   (Norsk) Usunn Relasjoner   •   (Türkçe) Sağlıksız İlişkiler   •   (Polski) Niezdrowe Relacje   •   (Româna) Relații Nesănătoase   •   (Ceština) Nezdravé Vztahy   •   (Slovenský) Nezdravé Vzťahy   •   (Magyar) Egészségtelen Kapcsolatok   •   (Hrvatski) Nezdravih Odnosa   •   (български) Нездравословни Взаимоотношения   •   (Lietuvos) Nesveika Santykiai   •   (Slovenščina) Nezdravi Odnosi   •   (Latvijas) Neveselīgas Attiecības   •   (eesti) Ebatervislikud Suhted