Help parents guide their children on the complex journey through life’s many relationships.
Foster opportunities for parents and guardians to talk with each child in a healthy and age-appropriate way—helping them to negotiate the exciting, yet sometimes perilous, journey from family love, to friendships, to teenage infatuations, to falling in love, to life-time love commitments.
Conversations about L.I.F.E. gives parents and guardians the tools they need to help their children—from preschool through high school—to understand and navigate the ever-changing world of relationships.
This program empowers families to talk about relationships, sex, and sexual abuse in an easy-to-implement, ongoing educational program that addresses critical life issues. Issues that will be important throughout their entire lives.
Comprehensive Education in a Single Session Per Year
We understand that families are busy. Between work, school, and activities, it can be hard for parents and kids to connect, let alone find time to talk through important life topics like how to build loving relationships and how to identify potentially harmful situations. Often parents or guardians are unsure how to even start such vital conversations. That’s where Conversations about L.I.F.E. comes in. Our once-a-year lesson packages help foster important family talks through a well-researched, evidence-based program designed to enhance faith formation, to teach children and teens about how to develop loving relationships and how to identify unsafe situations, and to meet safe environment standards and audit requirements.
Choosing the Grade-Level Session
While each session of the Conversations about L.I.F.E. program has been prepared to fit the developmental level and interests of the specific grade, this is not a hard and fast distinction. Some parish or school programs combine two or three grade levels for the program. Some offer one session one year and another the next. We recommend that you become familiar with the goals and content of the lessons immediately preceding and following your grade level, and that you choose the lesson that seems the best fit for your particular grouping of children. (To accommodate such circumstances, we have not printed the grade level on any of the handout materials; grade levels are found on the Lesson Plans only.)
While the L.I.F.E. sessions are designed to facilitate a parent-child process for a gathered group of young people with their parents, we realize that some parishes and schools may have difficulty getting the parents to attend such a session every year. To accommodate that circumstance, we have prepared a classroom adaptation for each session.
The classroom adaptation offers an alternative plan in which the lesson is introduced in the classroom or religious education setting and a parent packet is provided to guide the parents in discussing the lesson with their child at home. The classroom session is understood to be an introduction to and preparation for the more important parent-child conversation that will follow in the home. Using the outline presented in the parent packet, the parents review the material that was covered in the classroom and are encouraged to discuss in greater depth any of the more sensitive material on sexuality and sex abuse that was introduced. A response form is also sent to the parents, with instructions to return it to the parish or school.
It is strongly recommended that a parish or school offer the facilitated family process every year, and that they resort to using the classroom adaptation only when absolutely necessary. Parents often mention that getting their children to attend a scheduled event at the parish or school is easier than finding the quiet time needed to have such a discussion at home. The young people seem to enjoy participating in the process with other children and families. Moreover, the facilitated process provides the parents with the vocabulary and concepts needed to have such important conversations with their children on a regular basis.
Meet Audit Requirements & Uphold Church Documents
Since the release of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, “safe environment education” has been an annual requirement for all parishes within the Catholic Church. The mandate requires that all children be given annual lessons to help them recognize and avoid sexual abuse. Given the strict diocesan guidelines, mandatory reporting procedures, record keeping requirements, and diocesan and national-level audits, it is important that parishes of all sizes have comprehensive materials to give their teachers and catechists. Conversations about L.I.F.E. fills that need! The L.I.F.E. program provides safe environment training with theologically-based materials and an experience-driven structure.
The Church has also called for more comprehensive chastity education for youth. In the 2008 document Catechetical Formation in Chaste Living, the US bishops mandate a program that provides chastity education for children of all ages. And in the 2016 exhortation Amoris Lætitia, Pope Francis points out the need for sexuality education and encourages parents to discuss important topics such as sexuality with their own children.
Conversations about L.I.F.E. was strategically created to provide a full suite of chastity education materials spanning from pre-kindergarten through high school, offering age-appropriate lessons on how to develop loving relationships and how to avoid relationships which use others. The lessons also enhance parent and guardian participation in these important life topics, including both in-session participation and guided parent follow up.
Conversations about L.I.F.E. comprehensively covers both the safe environment mandate and the chastity education mandates. It sets up parishes and diocese for success while also building stronger, safer, healthier, and more aware children.
Age-Appropriate Lessons from Pre-K to High School
The goal of the Conversations about L.I.F.E. program is to provide children with the education and formation they need to become the loving persons God created them to be. The authors of the program believe that learning to love is a life-long process. They are also convinced that a primary method for teaching the process is family dialogue—frequent family conversations about healthy loving relationships, and, in that context, discussions about relationship that might be negative and abusive.
The framework for these ongoing discussions is provided by the L.I.F.E. acronym and the three-circle Venn diagram. Through annual, age-appropriate conversations with their parents, the children gradually learn to distinguish the difference between the three kinds of love relationships—family love, friendship, and infatuation or falling-in-love—as well as learn about the kind of negative relationships that the program calls exploitation. The family conversations help the children to understand and develop the various kinds of loving relationships and to recognize, avoid, and respond to any relationship that might be abusive or exploitative.
The pre-school lessons help the parents affirm to children how special they are and how much they are loved by God. The parents assure them that most adults love them and want them to be safe and happy, but also alert them that there may be some adults who cannot be trusted. These early conversations teach the children the vocabulary needed to talk about God, their bodies, and their feelings in meaningful ways. More importantly, they build up trust bonds with their parents that will be much needed as the children mature.
In primary school the yearly lesson becomes a bit more complex. The parents name for their children their own unique qualities and talk with them about how to be kind and loving to others. Special attention is given to helping the children talk about how to respond to feelings—their own feelings, and those of others. The parents are guided in talking to their children about Jesus and his love for them, and are invited to bless their child as Jesus does. The children talk with their parents about the private and special parts of their own bodies and those of others, and review how to react if someone should try to touch these.
Children in grade 4 talk with their parents about respect, and how it helps them to keep a proper balance between love for self and love for others. They learn the word abuse as the opposite of respect, and discuss with their parents three categories of abuse by adults, as well as bullying, the kind of abuse children use against other children. The grade 5 lesson guides parents in talking with their children about the feelings and signs of affection associated with each of the four relationships in the L.I.F.E. acronym. The program introduces the word “sex” in this context and points out to the parents that by this age their child needs to know the biological meaning of the word. (The L.I.F.E. program does not directly teach the biology, but offers references to other materials that do.) The parent-child dialogue in the grade 6 program is focused on helping the children to realize that they themselves are becoming more and more responsible for their own choices and decisions and for how these affect all of their developing relationships.
By grades 7 and 8 most of the young people are well into the biological and emotional experiences that characterize puberty. It is at this stage that the trust built up in the earlier grades will be most helpful. The parent-child dialogue focuses on the gradual development of an infatuation experience and the difference between infatuation and real love. Parent and child discuss the importance of the virtues in developing a real love relationship, with special emphasis placed on chastity, the virtue that helps people to direct their sexual desires toward love and away from exploitation. The grade 8 lesson focuses on the need to spend their teen years and early twenties becoming the kind of loving adults who freely choose either to create a loving family or to dedicate their lives to some other loving cause.
The goal of the high school sessions is to help the teen participants to understand the difference between infatuation and real love and to guide them through the challenging waters of romantic experiences. The sessions are designed to help the young people to make the kinds of choices and decisions that will navigate them towards a loving adulthood. Although parental participation in these discussions is a great aid toward achieving the goal, the lessons are designed to work with or without the presence of the parents.
It is the hope of the authors that, having completed the Conversations about L.I.F.E. program, the young people will be empowered to continue making thoughtful and healthy choices regarding loving relationships throughout adulthood. As a result, we hope that they will choose to create the happy, healthy, and loving family circles that the future world so sorely needs.