When your child starts college, they may know their roommate because they went to high school together and requested each other, or their roommate might just be a new face in the crowd. In either case, soon they will know more about each other than they ever thought, such as who snores or likes to wake up to loud music. Some of these roommate pairs will become fast friends. Others might even find a way to share the room, but keep to themselves. Unfortunately, the other possibility is that they just can't get along.

In that last situation, there can be many reasons that contribute to their demise as roommates. For example: Too many guests or overnight visitors. Using each other's things without asking. One likes quiet to study. The other likes to have the radio on. Different expectations of what a roommate will be. The list could go on and on. As a parent, it's hard not to step in, particularly if you see your child's roommate as the cause of all of the problems. However, remember a few things first:

  • Be supportive: Ask questions that get to the heart of the issue. Ask for specific examples of when problems have occurred.
  • It takes two: Ask questions about your child's behavior to help understand if they are part of the problem.
  • Encourage communication: Maybe their roommate doesn't even realize that their behavior is a problem. Role-play it over the phone. Have your student tell you what they would say to their roommate.
  • Give them the tools: Instead of jumping in to "solve" a roommate issue, help your student figure out how they can address the issue instead. This type of resolution tends to go more smoothly than one where parents get involved. Plus, it helps your student take responsibility while learning to take positive action.

If your child has tried to work it out on their own and isn't getting any satisfaction, suggest the following staff people to talk with:

  • The Resident Assistant: The RA is trained in mediation and can help roommates compromise.
  • Residence Life: If the behavior is illegal, unethical or could potentially cause harm, encourage your student to contact a Residence Life staff member immediately. The Area Coordinator of their hall or community is right there, ready to help. Your student can also call or visit the Residence Life office to provide a first-hand account of the situation. The staff will work with your student to determine whether a room change is necessary and can help finalize that process.

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