Sharing a living space with others can sometimes lead to miscommunication or differences of opinion. Disagreements are normal and bound to happen from time to time. How your student handles them can help create a living environment where everyone is happy.
Working through disagreements can result in growth, learning and shared understanding. While this can be challenging and uncomfortable, there are ways you can support your student. Here are some tips for when your student reaches out to you with a roommate issue.
Listen and offer encouragement
Everyone goes through a period of transition at the beginning of the semester, which can affect how we interact with those around us. When there’s a roommate disagreement, it can be helpful for your student to find a safe space to share how they are feeling. As much as possible, try to listen without judgement. Offer encouragement that your student and their roommate can work things out.
Explore how the disagreement began
Ask questions to explore how the conflict started and get your student’s perception of both sides of the story. Use open-ended questions to encourage your student to reflect on the situation and uncover the underlying roots of the conflict. For example, an issue may escalate over text or social media where tone or meaning can be misinterpreted.
Make a plan to resolve the issue
Help your student talk through several possible solutions and make a plan to resolve the conflict. Encourage your student to think about their needs and what they are willing (and not willing) to compromise on. Finding a time to talk with their roommate in person where they both feel comfortable can ensure time and space to come to a resolution.
Encourage them to reach out for help if needed
If your student lives on campus, they can reach out to their resident advisor (RA) or hall director for assistance with roommate disagreements.
Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution offers conflict management resources for students and support for staff working with students. These include one-on-one conflict coaching, mediation and facilitated dialogues. Additionally, the Ombuds Office is a confidential resource on campus for students seeking guidance related to a university dispute, including conflicts with professors.