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Learning Activities

All Learning Activities

Self Esteem: The IALAC Story

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This activity would be appropriate with middle or high school aged youth. It also works well with parents, with a few minor adaptations to the discussion questions.


At the completion of this activity, youth will be able to:

  1. Identify the impact of negative events such as parental conflict and criticism on a child/adolescent's developing self esteem.
  2. Identify strategies for increasing one's self esteem.

Preparation and Materials

  1. Have the following materials ready:
    • Leader Resource: The IALAC Story
    • Two large sheets of brightly colored paper
  2. Make two IALAC signs by writing the letters "IALAC" in large letters on the two sheets of colored paper.
  3. Tear several small pieces off one of the signs.



  1. Tell participants that they will be discussing self esteem today. Ask for a definition of self esteem. Clarify or add to the definition, if necessary. Make sure group members understand that self esteem is dynamic — that it is affected by what's going on inside the person as well as by the people and events happening around them.
  2. Review the learning objectives for the activity. Explain that you will read a story to demonstrate the impact of various life events on a person's developing self esteem. Ask the group to listen carefully and be prepared to react to the story.
  3. Hold up the intact IALAC sign. Read the IALAC story from the leader resource. Be dramatic with your reading, taking time to rip off a piece of the sign each time you see the word "rip" on the leader resource. You should have about half of the sign left at the end of the reading.
  4. At the end of the reading, hold up the second sign with the tears and cracks. Say, "When Michaela became an adult, her IALAC sign had done a lot of mending. She never became a basketball player, but one of her aunts introduced her to tennis and she became very good at it after a lot of practice and hard work. Michaela and her father also developed a closer relationship when she was in high school. Young people are very resilient. BUT there were some lingering cracks in her IALAC sign."
  5. After the reading, ask the following questions:
    • What do you think of the IALAC story?
    • What was the point for you?
    • How do you think Michaela's relationship with her father affected her self esteem? What about her relationship with her mother?
    • How do you think Michaela's feelings of self esteem affected her decision to have sexual intercourse?
    • What do you think attracted Michaela to DeShawn? Why? (Look for youth to recognize that Michaela was trying to fill the hole she experiences in her relationship with her father through intimacy with DeShawn.)
    • Why do you think DeShawn pulled away from Michaela?
    • How do you think having higher self esteem would have affected Michaela's interaction with DeShawn?
    • What parts of the story could you relate to and why?
    • If you were Michaela's friend, what would you want her to do right now to increase her self esteem? (Examples might include: practice skills over and over to increase your competence, catch yourself when you're doing negative self talk [like Michaela did when she was trying to make a basket] and turn that into positive self talk [take your time, girl, you can do this!], set high goals, but don't expect perfection from yourself, try out different sports [or other activities] to help you find one that you really enjoy and go step-by-step in learning the skills you need to play well, build a few special connections within your family and friendship circles so that when something hurtful happens and you need support, you know you can get it.)
    • What kinds of things have happened in your life that might have damaged your IALAC sign? (Note that this is a higher risk question that would be most appropriate in groups with high levels of trust.)
    • What kinds of activities make you feel good about yourself? How much opportunity do you have to do those things?


About the Author
Pamela Wilson, MSW, is a nationally known sexuality education consultant and trainer. She has written or co-authored numerous curricula and other publications, including, When Sex is the Subject: Attitudes and Answers for Young Children and a new curriculum, Our Whole Lives: Sexuality Education for Grades 7-9. She is also featured in the sexuality education videos Raising Healthy Kids: Families Talk About Sexual Health. Pam can be reached at

Pam Wilson Photo