Lesson 1: Healthy Relationships

tic-tac-toe game with Xs and hearts


  1. Youth will gain tools to identify their positive qualities to work towards understanding and improving their self-esteem.
  2. Youth will be able to identify key words and phrases that could indicate a healthy or unhealthy relationship.
  3. Youth will be made aware of both the positive and negative side of social media and its impact on relationships with family, friends, coworkers, and significant others.

Time to Complete: 45 minutes – 1.5 hours, depending on how many social media quotes are discussed and the group size.

Level: Grades 8-12


Room Setup

This activity works best when youth are grouped at tables of four to eight. Space should also be left along the perimeter of the room for the Social Media Quotes activity. The True/False relationship statistics cards can be placed on each group’s table so that they may read them as they enter, or can be used during down time.

Special Considerations

Due to the personal and potentially sensitive nature of this topic, please consider starting the lesson by creating a working agreement for the group, focusing on making sure members are respectful and confidential (barring any mandatory reporting requirements or situations where a youth is in danger) about what others choose or do not choose to share with the group. Should information arise where a youth or facilitator feels they need more help or information about healthy, unhealthy, or abusive relationships, please consider visiting or recommending loveisrespect.org. Not only is there information available online but they also offer free and confidential phone, live chat, and texting services 24/7/365.

Introduction (5 minutes)

The goal of this lesson is to empower youth to become advocates for themselves in any relationship they enter, whether it be with family, friends, coworkers, or a romantic partner. Youth will start by identifying their own positive qualities and sharing and processing those with others. Youth will then have the opportunity to read real-life quotes taken from various social media sites to determine if they portray healthy or unhealthy relationship language or behaviors.

Throughout the lesson feel free to pick and choose the amount of statistics read to youth based on group size, age, and time limit. The discussion questions are most important.

What is self esteem?

  • Self-Esteem is how you view yourself in the world. Think of it like a spectrum, where you are on it always changes[1]:
    • High self esteem: you believe in yourself, you recognize that you might have a few weaknesses, but you also have a lot of strengths, all of which shape who you are.
    • Low self esteem: you don’t believe in yourself enough, you may compare yourself to others and find that you ‘don’t measure up’ in your eyes, you tend to focus on your weaknesses rather than the strengths you have.[2]

Why is self-esteem important in all types of relationships?

  • 26% of teens ages 13-17 report feeling worse about their own lives after looking at social media.[3]
  • 41% of teens report purposefully trying to make others feel inferior. When asked why they did that, 50% of them said because of their own low self-esteem.[4]
  • 7 in 10 girls believe they are not good enough in some way, including their looks, performance in school, and relationships with friends and family members.[5]

Imagine what could happen if we all understood our own self-worth and could build each other up instead of tearing each other down, that is the inspiration for this next activity.

Utah State University’s Connect II Sense of Purpose Gingerbread Activity (20 minutes)

  • Draw a large Gingerbread person on a whiteboard or chart with the qualities labeled in the appropriate spaces. Review what each space means with examples.
  • Have youth fill out the Gingerbread Person (6 minutes).
    • Depending on group size, have youth pair up or work as a small table group to share all traits from each area. Make sure to let youth know that they can share as much or as little as they are comfortable with from their sheet (7 minutes).
    • Bring the group back together and have them share answers to the following questions (7 minutes):
      • Which areas were you most confident in identifying positive traits?
      • Which areas were you least confident in identifying positive traits?
      • Was it difficult to identify positive traits about yourself? Why or why not?
      • How did sharing your positive traits make you feel?

Social Media Activity (15 minutes)

Social media is defined as a form of electronic communication where users create online communities to share a variety of content, information, ideas, and personal messages.[6] Examples include Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, and many more.

Did you know?

  • Upsides:
    • 8 in 10 teens say social media makes them feel more connected to their peers.[7]
    • 41% of 18- to 29-year-olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner because of online or text message conversations.[8]
  • Downsides:
    • 2 in 5 teens feel pressure to post only content that makes them look good on social media.[9]
    • 75% of teens say social media negatively affects romantic relationships. 18% say it affects them positively, while 7% believe there is no effect.[10]
    • 26% of teens ages 15 to 17 say they post about their dating life on social media, compared with 16% of 13- to 14-year-olds.[11]
    • 44% of teens ages 13-17 say they often or sometimes unfriend or unfollow others on social media. 78% digitally disconnect because the other person created too much drama, while 52% cite they or others were bullied by that person.[12]

Prior to the start of the lesson, hang some or all of the included Social Media Quotes around the room. For a 45-minute lesson with a group of approximately twenty youth, 4 quotes is a reasonable number to use and is what this lesson plan timing is based on. Everyone should have red dots and green dots to vote if they think the quotes are representing a healthy or unhealthy relationship.

  • Instruct youth to silently go around the room and read each quote, keeping in mind that these are quotes that were posted on social media sites. Youth will use a red dot to vote if they think a quote is representing unhealthy relationship language or behaviors, and a green dot if they think it is representing healthy relationship language or behaviors (5 minutes).
  • Once youth have finished voting, the facilitator should go to each quote individually and ask why youth voted green or red, and begin the discussion about whether it represents healthy or unhealthy relationship language and behaviors. Be sure to use the included Answer Key (PDF) to help guide youth in the discussion (10 minutes).

Wrap-Up Discussion (5 minutes)

  • How does knowing your positive qualities and having a strong self-esteem impact you in a relationship?

Concept created by 2018 Maine 4-H Healthy Living Summit Delegates in partnership with advisors Sara Conant & Alisha Targonski, UMaine Extension Kennebec County 4-H Youth Development Professional.

Lesson materials compiled and written by Sara Conant, UMaine Extension Cumberland County 4-H Youth Development Community Education Assistant.

[1] https://yourlifecounts.org/learning-center/body-image/what-is-self-esteem/

[2] https://yourlifecounts.org/learning-center/body-image/high-and-low-self-esteem/

[3] http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/11/28/teens-and-their-experiences-on-social-media/

[4] https://www.stageoflife.com/StageHighSchool/TeensandSelfWorth.aspx#Survey%20Results

[5] https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-teens-and-self-esteem

[6] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/social%20media

[7] http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/11/28/teens-social-media-habits-and-experiences/

[8]  http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/02/11/couples-the-internet-and-social-media/

[9] https://www.joinonelove.org/act/behind-the-post/

[10] https://www.joinonelove.org/act/behind-the-post/

[11] http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/11/28/teens-and-their-experiences-on-social-media/

[12] http://www.pewinternet.org/2018/11/28/teens-social-media-habits-and-experiences/