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Parents & Family

Supporting Your Student During Roommate Conflicts

Roommate experiences can be joyful, memorable and at times challenging. If your student is having difficulties with a roommate, you may be tempted to get involved. However, the best approach may be to listen and support your student. After all, college experiences -even unpleasant ones - can be opportunities for personal growth as your student learns about relationships, assertiveness, diplomacy, independence and decision-making.

Avoidance vs. Acceptance

It may come as no surprise that first-year students are the most likely candidates for roommate woes. A survey by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California Los Angeles found that 29 percent of the 31,000 first-year students surveyed across the U.S. had experienced roommate problems.

While some students may prefer to just let things go rather than inform their roommates of difficulties, this approach can lead to resentment that builds over time. Instead, students should realize that disagreements can be common when individuals share living quarters and that compatibility is not determined by how individuals avoid conflicts rather how they respond to them.

Communication = Compatibility

Communication is the single most important factor affecting roommate compatibility. Roommate disaccord can start with a simple misunderstanding that escalates into a major problem if left astray and fueled by emotions. One way to help avoid such frustrations is to encourage your student to have ongoing communication that is face-to-face and non-confrontational.

During the first few weeks of college, roommates were asked to complete a questionnaire that would facilitate discussion about key topics and encourage communication.

Support Not Solve

For parents and families, it can be frustrating to know your student may be experiencing roommate conflict. The following suggestions can help you support your student:

  • Listen when your student vents frustrations
  • Let your student lead the conversation and respond in a non-judgmental way. By allowing your student to work through the emotional aspects of a situation, you are helping your student to move on to the next step, which is finding a solution
  • Support but step away and allow your student to find solutions and follow through with them. If you think your student is unaware of all the options, then offer suggestions and mention campus resources like the Office of Residence Life and Counseling Services