Sam Smith, Taylor Swift, and Ariana Grande are popular music artist. There songs are generally catchy, about a love interest or breakup, or have some sort of carpe diem theme about life. Sam Smith won a Grammy for his song “Stay with me,” Taylor Swift sings a vow to “never get back together” with a boyfriend, Ariana Grande sings that she has “one less problem without you.” Most of these songs are sung by teens and pre-teens, making one wonder- where the heck does one learn how to be in a romantic relationship?
Most teens have very little information on how to begin a relationship, let alone sing a break-up song (Agbo-Quay, Sena & Robertson, 2010). Hours and hours of schooling is spent teaching youth math, science, social studies, and English and neglect educating on how to have healthy romantic relationships. According to the Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education by ages 12-15, depending on cultural norms and guardian consent, youth begin to date and can distinguish dating norms as early as junior high (SIECUS 2004). When young people do not learn aspects of healthy relationships, what’s predictable is teen dating violence (2010). “Approximately one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner” (Davis, 2008, p.7). Teaching our youth the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationship using a variety of learning styles will decrease teen dating violence.
A great tool to teaching healthy romantic relationships is non-sexual role-play. Role-plays are “acting out assigned roles. There is no script as in a play, but participants are not free to act in any way they wish” (Gilbert, Sawyer & McNeil, 2015, p.192) Role-plays allow for practice of social situations that may be uncomfortable or difficult in a safe environment (2015). The following is a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to have an effective role-play on healthy romantic relationships amongst teens:
- Role-plays are not an activity you want to role out on the first day with students. You want your students to trust you. Role-plays are great after you have given much information about the subject matter through discussion and former classroom lessons (Hedpeth & Helmich 1996).
- Make sure your students are familiar with various emotions. This may seem obvious, but it is very important that in a role-play various emotions are expressed, such that the activity reflects real –life situations (1996). Students practicing as close to their reality is best.
- Not sure how to write a role- play for young people? Great! Have them write their own! This is a great way for the instructor to see real-life examples of relationship norms with their students. Some examples of role-play topics are asking someone out, negotiation, relationship arguments, and break-up conversations.
- Do you have shy students? Are they not sure they want to participate? Show a role-play video by other teens or act one out with a volunteer to excite your students to the idea of participating (1996). Here is an example of a role-play skit put on buy teens about how not to ask someone out.
- When assigning roles, make sure everyone is clear as to what they are to do and reveal to the audience who is playing what role. Letting your students know who is playing which character allows for a seamless discussion after the role-play. Discussion is paramount in a role-play and a role-play on romantic relationships is sure to incite many emotions (1996)
- Observers of the role-play can complete a questionnaire while they watch, such that they have noted what they have seen and can engage in the follow-up discussion not relying on their memory. Examples of questions on the observing questionnaire would be: How might you respond differently if you were one of the characters? What emotions were displayed? What worked about what happened? What didn’t work? Etc.
Romantic relationships look different for every person. Rather than leaving students to gain all of their relationship advice from magazine columns, pop-songs, and Oprah (is that just me?) it is time to take on a tool to support young people in learning how to have healthy romantic relationships. In the end, role-playing romantic relationships will have your learners singing, Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.”
Agbo-Quaye, Sena, and Toby Robertson. “The motorway to adulthood: music preference as the sex and relationships roadmap.” Sex Education 10, no. 4 (November 2010): 359-371. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed March 18, 2015)
Davis, Antoinette, MPH. (September 2008). Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among Teens. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency Focus
Gilbert, G., Sawyer, R., & Beth McNeil, E. (2015). Health education: Creating strategies for school and community health (4th ed.). Burlintong, MA.: Jones and Bartlett
Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: Kindergarten – 12th grade (3rd ed.). (2004). New York, N.Y.: SIECUS
Hedgepeth, E., & Helmich, J. (1996). Teaching about sexuality and HIV: Principles and methods for effective education. New York: New York University Press
International Business, T. (2008, October). New York City to Mandate Sex Education in Public Schools. International Business Times