Combating Bullying and Bias: Resources for Parents and Caregivers | Facing History & Ourselves
Father talking with teenage son

Combating Bullying and Bias: Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Combat bullying, bigotry, and bias and support your teenagers’ social and emotional wellbeing with these strategies for parents and caregivers.

In partnership with Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and with support from The Choose Kindness Project, Facing History & Ourselves is proud to share new resources for families to Combat Bullying and Bias.

Teen Mental Health is a serious concern and the number of teens reporting poor mental health is increasing.  Facing History and our partners at Making Caring Common and The Choose Kindness project recognize the important role parents and caregivers play in supporting adolescents as they develop their sense of identity, agency, and belonging. 

Learn how to become an upstander

Centered on helping young people learn how to become upstanders—people who speak out against bigotry and hate— these downloadable resources for adult caregivers are adapted from Facing History’s evidence-based leading classroom materials. 

Our goal is to equip parents and caretakers to engage in open, honest discussions with their teens on issues around bullying, bias, isolation, and bigotry – including how to identify and stand up to such occurrences while also building their capacity to empathize with and consider the perspectives of others.

What Is Bullying?

One of the contributing factors in the continuing teen mental health crisis is bullying. Often linked to feelings of sadness, isolation, anxiety, and in some cases even physical harm, bullying can be especially detrimental to young people’s sense of connectedness, safety, and confidence. 

Taking a variety of forms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies bullying as a type of youth violence and that involves any unwanted, recurring or likely to recur aggressive behavior(s) by another person or group of people and involves an observed or perceived power imbalance.

We know that identity-based bullying is often motivated by bias or stigma and targets aspects of a person’s identity or perceived identity group, such as appearance, race, religion, disability, immigration status, sexual orientation, and gender identity and expression. Accounting for more than half of all bullying incidents, identity-based bullying highlights the urgent need for interventions that help to reduce bias and foster greater empathy in young people.   

Ways You Can Prevent Bullying and Reduce Bias 

Bullying negatively impacts not only the victims, but also the bullies and bystanders to the action. While there is no one solution, prevention approaches that confront the problem from multiple angles show the most promise. Parents and other caregivers play an important role in establishing safe, reflective spaces that build trust, model empathy, and foster open communication so that young people can grow from being bystanders to acting as allies. 

Picture of black father talking to daughter using smartphone.

Combating Bias and Isolation in Adolescence: Strategies for Teachers and Families

Watch this special webinar with award-winning educator and best-selling author Liz Kleinrock to explore how educators and families can work together to support teens as they develop their sense of identity, agency, and belonging.

Access the Webinar

Discuss Contemporary Issues with Teens

Engaging teens in discussions around current events and contemporary issues they may face or otherwise learn about can help them process and form their own perspectives and opinions based on trustworthy information. By establishing an open line of communication, teens are empowered to ask questions, reflect, and explore their own identity in the context of these issues. 

To support parents in navigating these conversations, our Current Events toolkit offers engagement strategies, reflection activities, and actionable steps to model empathy for people impacted by specific events in the news while also helping teens develop media literacy skills.

We also encourage you to read our guide to Fostering Civil Discourse for tips on helping teens engage in productive conversations about contentious topics and with those whose beliefs conflict with our own.

Teach Empathy and Kindness

With many instances of bullying stemming from biases held against certain identity groups, teaching young people empathy for others is a critical component in changing bullying behavior and combating bigotry. Helping teens learn to understand, embrace, and even appreciate elements of others’ identities and lived experiences that may differ from their own, better equips them to be intentionally inclusive towards others and act as allies in the event those differences make a peer the target of bullying. 

To help turn empathy and kindness into action, our guide to Advancing the Common Good in Times of Crisis explores ways you and your teen can grapple with overwhelming changes due to global crises and how small actions can make a positive difference beyond one’s own family and community.

Support Teen Mental Health

As rates of depression, self-harm, and suicide have increased in children and young adults over the last decade, it’s clear that mental health is an essential part of overall health. Childhood and adolescence mark critical periods of rapid development for cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Parents and caregivers play a vital role helping teens develop healthy coping strategies to protect and promote their mental wellbeing.

While parents may notice signs their teen is struggling, it’s important to check in regularly and meaningfully to reduce the stigma around conversations about mental health. Parents can support open communication by asking thoughtful questions, validating their teens’ feelings and emotions, and listening actively and with curiosity. 

There may also be times when teens can benefit from additional support through counseling or other channels. By establishing for teens that such resources are available and it’s okay to use them, teens will feel less embarrassed about asking for or accepting help.

Making Caring Common

About Making Caring Common

Making Caring Common, a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, supports families, educators, and communities in raising children who care for others and the common good, and who are committed to justice.

Visit their website to learn more. 

The Choose Kindness Project

About The Choose Kindness Project

Description: The Choose Kindness Project is an alliance of 20+ of the nation’s leading nonprofit organizations that champion three major issue areas affecting children and teens: bullying prevention, intentional inclusion and youth mental wellness.

The Choose Kindness Project is dedicated to inspiring a more inclusive world where all young people feel empowered to be themselves and feel safe to create the futures they imagine.

Visit their website to learn more.


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