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AAFB youth learn to build healthy relationship skills

people sit in a circle

Sunny Cope, 97th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron family advocacy intervention specialist, hands a ball to an open recreation youth of the youth center, Feb. 24, 2021, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The ball had questions printed on it to act as a conversation starter for the children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

a sitting person begins to throw a ball

Zoey Miles, Altus Air Force Base Youth Center open recreation youth age 9, prepares to throw a ball, Feb. 24, 2021, at Altus AFB, Oklahoma. As part of an outreach hosted by the 97th Operational Medical Squadron’s Family Advocacy Program and the 97th AMW’s Violence Prevention Integrator, they started an initiative to support military youth at the base’s youth center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

a child takes a card from another person

Leah Sand, Altus Air Force Base (AFB) Youth Center open rec youth age 9, grabs a card from LisaMarie Mariglia the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) Violence Prevention Integrator (VPI), Feb. 24, 2021, at Altus AFB, Oklahoma. Members of the 97th Operational Medical Squadron’s Family Advocacy Program and the VPI members will visit the base’s youth center during spring break to continue support of the youth, families, and teaching community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

person holds a card

Keygan Rady, Altus Air Force Base Youth Center open rec youth age 12, holds a card as part of an icebreaker activity, Feb. 24, 2021, at Altus AFB, Oklahoma. Other topics planned to be discussed with military youth are themed around youth developmental skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

person holds a book

Tiffany Campbell, 97th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Family Advocacy Program assistant, showcases a communications book she will give out as a prize, Feb. 24, 2021, at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. At the end of the ice breakers, youth center children participated in small games to win a book to use with their families to get to know each other better. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Members of the 97th Operational Medical Squadron Family Advocacy Program and the 97th AMW Violence Prevention Integrator developed a training initiative that helps military youth focus on relationship development.

This team started the initiative by having teens and preteens from the youth center meet as part of Teen Dating Violence Prevention Month.

“I think (youth learning healthy relationships) is really important because this age is where they're learning to develop their relationships,” said Tiffany Campbell, 97th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron Family Advocacy Program assistant. “They are in that learning phase of knowing what a relationship is supposed to be like and even friendships, too. At this point in their lives, it is valuable to recognize when something isn't right.”

During the visit, youth ages nine through 15 were asked questions about themselves to get comfortable talking to the people around them. They did this by passing a ball around the room and selecting cards with questions on them. After the activities ended, some youth members had the opportunity to win a book with additional questions to further the conversation with their family.

“I liked getting a book from them because you get to ask questions and then get to see the different answers that we could pick and was fun having a lot of people there,” said Zoey Miles, Altus AFB Youth Center open recreation youth age 9."I had fun playing with my friends and playing the activities they brought in.”

The end goal of building communication skills with these children is to help them eventually define healthy relationships and provide an environment where they can better express themselves.

“Getting to know each other makes those conversations seem not so taboo,” said Campbell. “I think we're in a society where we can't really talk about our feelings, but we should be; people just need to know that it is an okay thing for us to do.”

The VPI and FAP members will be returning to the youth center during spring break to continue the support of youth, families, and the teaching community. According to LisaMarie Mariglia the 97th AMW VPI, activities will continue through the year with collaborative efforts and curriculum development, as they discuss healthy and unhealthy relationships.    

“For the healthy relationships, we're going to try to make it more all-encompassing, just because some of them are younger, or not just in dating relationships,” said Campbell. “Military kids move around so much that being able to recognize if something's wrong and how to fix it together, is important.”

For more information about Teen Dating Violence, the VPI or FAP are available or go to this tool kit at https://www.militaryonesource.mil/leaders-service-providers/child-abuse-and-domestic-abuse/teen-dating-violence-awareness-and-prevention-month-tool-kit/.

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