Roommates Nov26

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• Trouble in Paradise? •

“Hello, Mom? I hate my roommate. Seriously, I don’t know what I’m going to do. She is so awful and we are completely incompatible and there’s no way I can do this for a whole year!”

As much as we’d like everything to go smoothly for our college freshmen – where they love all their classes, their roommate’s their new best friend and they’re thrilled with their college choice – sometimes things get off to a rocky start.

Sometimes the fantasy of college doesn’t quite match up with the reality.

The reality is that there is a very real adjustment period for new college students. They’re adjusting to being away from home. They have left their old friends behind and have to make new ones. They are around other kids 24/7 and are trying to balance tougher academics and social time. And perhaps for the very first time in their lives, they’re sharing a small bedroom and workspace with a complete stranger (or acquaintance, at best).

So how do you, as a parent, help your student handle a challenging roommate situation?

1. Assess the real issue: Discuss what is really bothering your student about their roommate. Are they simply not compatible or is there a more serious problem? Common complaints are hygiene, different sleep and study habits, music preferences, and the ever-present boyfriend/girlfriend.

2. Assuming the situation is not abusive or otherwise unhealthy, point out that there are some simple solutions to solving most differences. Ask your kid what they’ve done to address the problem so far, and what else they think they might do.

3. Encourage your student to have a non-confrontational, open conversation with their roommate about how things are going, to discuss any problems and find solutions together so they can both be happy. They don’t need to be best friends but should agree that each is deserving of respect and happiness.

4. Refrain from stepping in to save the day. Your role is to be a sounding board for your student, to encourage them to handle it themselves, and offer advice when asked. It’s hard to see our kids unhappy, but remember: Kids learn so much by living on their own and navigating struggles like these. Finding a way to co-exist with another person, to express their feelings even when it may be uncomfortable, and work out any problems is an incredible opportunity for your student. It’s all a part of growing up, of becoming independent, confident and resilient.

5. If your student and their roommate cannot work things out, encourage your kid to go to the Resident Assistant (RA) in their dorm for help. Upperclassmen in these positions are trained to assist students with these issues and can usually facilitate a healthy discussion between roommates and a plan for moving forward.

6. If the situation cannot be resolved, encourage your student to go to the office of residential life or student affairs to learn about their options (i.e. requesting a new roommate, getting a single room, etc.).

Ultimately, ongoing communication between roommates is key. Both your student and their roommate may be having a difficult time adjusting and may not understand how their actions affect the other. Hopefully, they can work it out. If not, know that colleges want their students to be happy — and since school administrators understand how housing issues can impact student success (and the college’s student retention rates!)– they’ll typically make an effort to ensure your student is happy and thriving in their new home away from home.


Want to Know More:

How to Deal With a Bad College Roommate by Briana Boyington (U.S. News)

What to Do If You Hate Your Roommate: How to Approach Roommate Problems . . . Or Know When It’s Time to Switch by Kelci Lynn Lucier

 How A College Roommate Can Affect Your Child (NY Times)



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