familyIf your student is moving home for the summer, it’s normal for conflict to come up. Living with other people can be an adjustment, especially as schedules and routines change. Here are a few tips to help your student make the most of living at home this summer.

1. Revisit expectations

A lot of conflict between housemates arises from having different expectations, miscommunication and other subtle misperceptions. As we approach the end of the semester, it’s important to keep in mind that schedules and living arrangements may change.

Talk with your student about expectations, habits and routines to be aware of. Some topics to discuss may include:

  • Morning and bedtime routines (quiet hours, class or work times, etc.)
  • Cleanliness of shared spaces (clutter, laundry, dishes, etc.)
  • Visitors (friends, significant others, overnight guests, etc.)
  • Borrowing or using each other’s things (electronics, food, etc.)
  • Purchasing common items (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Parking arrangements
  • Preferred ways to address conflict and discuss issues

Create a house agreement to establish common ground rules and hold everyone accountable. Make sure everyone is on the same page and that the rules are outlined together with input from each person. Use the topics above to draft an initial agreement and add any additional information as needed.

2. Practice communicating

If you or your student is upset with another member of the house, it’s usually better to address the issue sooner rather than later. Addressing issues through text, social media or a note on the door may seem easier but often leads to miscommunication or increased frustration. Since we can’t control how the message is received, it may lead to more (and bigger) issues down the road.

Instead, work with your student to choose a time to bring up the issue in person, ideally when you’re both at home with no distractions. Make a plan and think about how you can express your needs—this will help you feel more prepared, and the conversation won’t catch them off guard. Remember to use “I” statements to describe how the situation makes you feel, and encourage your student to do the same. For instance, “I feel upset when guests come over late at night because I have an early morning work schedule and I want to ensure that I get enough sleep before work.”

During the conversation, remember to listen for understanding and ask follow-up questions to ensure you’re interpreting what they’re saying correctly. Resist the urge to formulate a response to what they’re saying while they’re speaking. Instead, focus your full attention on the emotions, issues and reasoning that are coming up for your student.

3. Everyone handles conflict differently (and that’s okay)

People handle conflict differently, based on the situation, their conflict style and the person the conflict is with. However, there are some common themes that may show up in a person’s response again and again. Learning how you and your student both approach conflict can be a great opportunity to learn or refine your skills for successful conflict resolution. 

You can take this Conflict Style quiz to learn more about your approach and how your default response impacts your behaviors and attitudes toward conflict. Encourage those around you – roommates, friends, family – to take it, too, so you can learn how to work better together. Sometimes, these styles may appear in conflict with one another, so knowing other people’s styles can be helpful in reframing your approach or working to find alternative solutions when conflict does arise.

4. Be open to compromise

While it would be nice, change doesn’t happen overnight. Disagreements don’t always resolve the way we’d like, and more often than not, seeing progress requires a series of conversations and a willingness to keep trying.

If things feel like they’re unresolved, let your student know you appreciate their time and you’d like to follow up with them in the future. If things are resolved quickly, share your appreciation and gratitude with your student and let them know you value their help and input.

The Conflict Resolution team provides services to help students navigate conflicts in a variety of relationships, including family, roommates, partners, friends, professors, classmates and more. They also offer free workshops and coaching sessions for students looking to improve their skills around conflict management and conflict resolution.