Skip all navigation Skip to page navigation

DHHS Home | Assistance | Divisions | About DHHS | DHHS Contacts

NC Department of Health and Human Services
N.C. DPH: Chronic Disease and Injury Section
N.C. Public Health Home

Injury and Violence Prevention Branch

Bullying Prevention for Parents

Bullying is a problem that is gaining attention for the serious immediate and long term consequences it can have on kids. Bullying includes, but is not limited to:

  • Punching, hitting, pushing or shoving
  • Name calling
  • Social exclusion
  • Teasing
  • Sending insulting or intimidating pictures and messages on the internet (cyberbullying)

The act of bullying is done on purpose, and often is repeated over time. As adults, sometimes it is hard to understand the severity of bullying. Adults may see bullying as harmless teasing and not realize how serious the situation can be.The first step to putting an end to bullying is for adults to recognize the severity of bullying.

Why Does Bullying Matter?

Bullying is a serious issue, and can greatly affect the life of a child. A child’s physical and mental health, academic performance, and overall future are at risk if they are bullied, witness bullying, or bully others. Children that are bullied may experience some or all of the following:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Physical harm (and physical health issues including headaches and stomach problems)
  • Loneliness/anxiety/suicidal thoughts
  • Poor academic performance
  • Poor social skills
  • Increased risk of negative mental and physical health as an adult

Bullying creates a negative environment, and can harm all those involved. Being a bully can lead to increased risk of delinquent behavior that puts a child’s future in jeopardy. Being a witness to bullying can harm children by causing fear, intimidation and distraction. Further, bullying is against the law. In 2009, the North Carolina state legislature passed a new law called the School Violence Prevention Act that requires schools to have programs that protect against bullying.

Parents can act to help prevent bullying, stop current bullying, and support children that have been bullied. Adults are frequently unaware of bullying for a number of reasons: it often occurs in areas or at times no adults are present, it may be done in ways that are not obvious, like in cases of social exclusion or cyberbullying, and children are very often afraid to tell an adult about the bullying. It is your responsibility to be proactive, let children know that you will take their concerns seriously, and that they are in no way tattle-taleing. Children may be afraid that if they talk to an adult, the bullying will become worse. As a proactive adult, make children feel protected and safe to come to you for help on the situation.

What Can You Do?

Step 1

Find out everything you can about the bullying. Be open and receptive to your child. Listen to what they have to say, and make them feel validated for coming to you with this problem. Reassure them that telling an adult about bullying is not tattling, it is the right thing to do.

Find out everything you can about the place, time, and those involved in the bullying. Figure out all the methods of bullying that were used, and if anyone else witnessed the events.

There are several things not to do at this point. If your child tells you they are being bullied, do not ever tell them to just ignore it, that it is their fault, or to physically retaliate. These actions will not help the situation and may even make things worse.

Step 2

While you may feel angry and want to take the matter into your own hands, you must remain calm and think about what is best for your child. The second step will be to contact a child’s teacher or school administrator. Be sure to relay all of the information that you know: who was involved, where it happened, when it happened, and what happened. Be clear, factual, and let the school know you want to work with them to make the school environment a safer place for everyone.

Do not contact the parents of the other child. This is often a parent's first response, but it is not a good solution. The school should contact the parents of the child who is being a bully. If you immediately contact the other parents, you are risking making matters worse. Continue to speak with your child openly about the situation, and follow up with school personnel if necessary.

Step 3

Work with your child to prevent them from becoming victims of bullying in the future. Work on building characteristics and talents that your child will be proud of like art, music, or athletic activities. Encourage them to hang out with children outside of school, and those in school that you know are friendly and welcoming.

Ask yourself if your child may have some behaviors that make others irritated. There is no excuse for bullying, and it is never right, but if you are able to identify possible reasons your child is a target, you may be able to help them prevent these episodes in the future. Work with a school staff member to help your child develop the skills necessary for them to excel in their social environment.

Remember that it took a lot of courage and trust for your child to come forward and tell you about being bullied. Be open, kind, patient, and caring with them. Make sure to let them know that you understand what they are going through, and that they did the right thing by telling you (emphasize it is NOT the same as tattling). Make your home the most loving and safe environment possible, and let them know how much you support them.