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Student Wellbeing Spotlight: How the Love Bites Program Promotes Respectful Relationships

14 February 2024 | Posted in Student Protection

Student Wellbeing Spotlight: How the Love Bites Program Promotes Respectful Relationships

Annette McCarthy

By Annette McCarthy

Manager, Student Wellbeing & Pastoral Services

Townsville Catholic Education

The Love Bites Respectful Relationships Program has been run in most of our Secondary colleges and is strongly supported by the TCE office and school staff.

As the Manager of the Student Wellbeing & Pastoral Services (SW&PS) in the Townsville Diocese, I have strongly supported our Guidance Counsellors to be equipped with the skills to be facilitators and promoters of the training in our schools. This adds a great pastoral touchpoint for staff in our schools and builds the capacity of our larger Secondary Colleges to also engage with the program for their students.

Since 2020 we have trained a total of 22 Guidance Counsellor staff and our Team Leaders from the SWB&PS team. The importance of education about respectful relationships for our young people is critical at a time when they are forming their first strong relationships outside of their families and it equips them with the awareness and skills for navigating healthy relationships and matters of consent that they will need going forward.

Our Guidance Counsellors enjoy the program and the opportunity to provide students with a full school day of dedicated learning and interaction as part of the program. Love Bites is a great opportunity to start conversations and education about all types of healthy and unhealthy relationships. It encourages students to think about what they want to see in their current (or future) relationships and encourages them to look for red flags/green flags within their relationships which may be romantic or non-romantic, including friendships.

Through activities and discussions, clear examples are given of when a relationship crosses the line and may start to look problematic. There is an opportunity to educate students on the subtle warning signs and empower them to identify that it’s not okay and they are not expected to ‘put up with it.’ It also allows for student reflection as to when their own behaviours may have crossed a line. It encourages change and ownership using education tools and conversation.

Guidance Counsellors believe it to be a fantastic program to address a few current and relevant issues for young people. The content is confronting at times, which allows the students to reflect on how relationship expectations can change and become unhealthy and what to do if experiencing yourself, but more importantly, it allows the opportunity for young people to be able to develop a script for when witnessing it within their friendship groups. When we talk about sex and consent it really engages students to openly talk about what consent might look like, regardless of their sexual experience or relationship history.

On top of the professional development to be facilitators of the course, it is also valuable learning for Guidance Counsellors in navigating the tricky conversations they have in their school roles supporting student questions and problems that might arise in counselling of students and their provision of other pastoral supports.

The structure of the Love Bites program offers a casual and conversational approach to serious topics. This encourages student participation and for them to share their voice. The creative component helps to consolidate the learnings and takeaways from the day. Topics can be challenging at times but the environment in which the program is delivered is both safe and supportive for our students.

 Feedback from our Guidance Counsellors!

Year 9 and year 11 are key transition periods for students. We feel running the program with them at these times developmentally this works for students as they are starting to enter relationships, or they may be forming more serious relationships by this age. We also know that by the time they leave the college, they will be informed in this space. The program has been a great success at their college. - Grace Tirendi , Guidance Counsellor at Ryan Catholic College

Our school provides the Love Bites program for students from Year 7 through to Year 10, so all students are exposed to the program. The Junior program focuses more on friendships and healthy relationships generally, whereas the Senior program more on romantic relationships. - Chris Lewis at St Anthony’s Catholic College.

We run the Love Bites program for all Year 10 and Year 12 students. We believe the information in this program is essential for all young people and are excited by the prospect of our young men gaining skills and knowledge that they can then bring back to their home communities. We are working hard to deliver this program in a culturally appropriate manner and to date have trained an additional three First Nations facilitators to assist in the delivery of the program at our College. – Andrew Pollock at St Teresa’s College, Abergowrie

The Love Bites program really helps students navigate the “real world” issues of relationships and can be delivered at a critical time in their lives surrounded by their peers, friends and within a supportive school community and context.

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