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Understanding Teen Relationships Through a Whole-Learner Lens

Understanding Teen Relationships Through a Whole-Learner Lens

The ability to establish and maintain healthy and supportive peer relationships helps create academic, as well as social-emotional, success. Students who form and keep healthy relationships learn to demonstrate skills like active listening, clear communication, conflict navigation, problem solving, and collaboration. These skills can help students access academic content and participate in creating positive school culture.

Modern brain research tells us that learning is absorbed more effectively when all of a person’s needs are met. Learning occurs in an integrated way—cognitive, social, emotional, and creative skills are all interconnected. Because peer relationships play such a large role in teen lives, it is important for students to understand how to choose friends who have their best interests in mind and who support and care for them reciprocally so that they will not only have their needs met within these relationships but also demonstrate mastery of these skills to apply in other areas.

 As spring approaches, this is a perfect time to check in with students’ understanding of what healthy relationships look like and to challenge them to evaluate and communicate within and about these relationships.

BASE Education’s Healthy Relationships course teaches students how to define, evaluate, and communicate within their friendships and dating relationships so that they understand what is and is not acceptable behavior, and it provides them with tools to implement as they learn to navigate this immensely important part of their lives. In this post, we will take a closer look at what the Healthy Relationships course entails and how it can positively impact students.

Course Content

BASE Education 6-12 Courses friendship course screen shot

Following the BASE Education interactive course structure of defining, coping, and planning, Healthy Relationships uses evidence-based practices to connect with students by building rapport and leveraging a strengths-based approach.

The Healthy Relationships course explores friendships from many angles, posing reflective questions about how important friendships are to individuals, how individuals feel within these friendships, and how important individuals feel they are to their friends.

Focusing on friendships in this purposeful way is beneficial to students because they are intentionally analyzing existing relationships and then learning how to make choices or changes that are necessary to create friendships containing honest communication, trust, and respect.

The Healthy Relationships course is designed to promote interaction and reflection. As students work through the course, they are engaging in a conversation rather than simply receiving information. This approach of motivational interviewing helps students connect with the content and encourages them to share. It also gives them the autonomy to create meaning from the course, making their lessons learned more personal and more likely to lead to change.

Dating Relationships

BASE Education 6-12 Courses Dating Relationships screen shot

The emotions of a dating relationship are much bigger than the emotions of a friendship, and the difference between an unhealthy friendship and an unhealthy dating relationship can be new for teens and difficult to recognize. Many teens report staying in unhealthy dating relationships because they hoped it would get better or they remembered the good times and couldn’t let go. Some students said they stayed in relationships because they were known as a couple or felt unsafe leaving.

Understanding how to know if they are in an unhealthy relationship and what to do if they are helps students at this age balance the intense emotions of a dating relationship that many may be experiencing for the first time, with trusted information and strategies to help them honestly evaluate their choices and barriers to success and create a plan for the future.

Student Voice

One Oklahoma high school Health and SEL teacher asked his students to share feedback after completing this course. Here are a couple of their responses:

“I liked the Healthy Relationships course because it has taught me that my opinion matters. It has taught me that I also need to value other people’s opinions too. I like this because it has taught me that in a healthy relationship you need people around you that put you in a good mood and that they don't always put you down. I also like it because it talks about if you treat your friends as family and that is how I see my friends.”

“My favorite BASE unit so far would have to be Healthy Relationships. The BASE unit help you point out all the toxic and unhealthy relationships you may have. They help you find different ways to better your relationships and find better ways to communicate with others to fix those relationships.”

Pairing Courses

Consider pairing this course with one or more of the following courses to expand and reinforce the information and impact of Healthy Relationships.

BASE Education 6-12 Courses

Healthy Communication: Students will learn skills to help them maintain supportive relationships and contribute to an environment where everyone feels respected, supported, and engaged. This course defines healthy communication, discusses the importance of communicating well, and teaches the different types of communication, such as verbal and nonverbal like body language and tone. It explores barriers to success and provides tools to overcome challenges. Healthy Communication discusses ways to implement more effective approaches and helps the student create a plan for the future.

Self-Esteem: As students see themselves more clearly and understand themselves on a deeper level, they make healthier choices. This course defines self-esteem, outlines types, and discusses how to develop a stronger sense of self-esteem. It explores barriers to success, provides tools to overcome challenges, and how to move forward implementing positive change as needed.

Anger Management: It is important to learn to manage anger in healthy ways. This course provides tools, skills, and strategies to calm down and keep students from making poor choices. It defines anger management; discusses the importance of controlling anger; and teaches the different types of anger, such as passive, passive-aggressive, assertive, and aggressive. As with all BASE Education courses, Anger Management explores barriers to success, provides tools to overcome challenges and ways to implement healthier strategies, and reviews a plan for the future.

Looking for more ideas to promote emotional well-being on campus this semester? Check out the BASE Education course catalog.'s picture
Sian Reilly

Sian joined Edmentum in 2019 and serves as a Senior Marketing Specialist. A former teacher and administrator, Sian believes that individualizing education for the whole learner with quality academic and non-academic curriculum and assessment can powerfully transform students, campuses, and communities. Sian is passionate about connecting educators with content to meet their specific needs in an ever-evolving education environment.