Now that we are well into the semester – we at UCP are wondering how your college student’s living situation is going? This is usually a major source of anxiety during each year that your child goes off to school. Even if they are friends with their roommate(s) that doesn’t always translate into a good living situation. So many of our kids are used to having their own room, so the idea of sharing a room or a bathroom with other people may be unsettling. Just like learning to share toys in preschool or kindergarten was a growing experience, so is learning to share a living space with a virtual stranger.
So what is your kid’s expectation of their living situation? Your child should keep in mind that you don’t have to be great friends with a person to be great roommates. But, most kids would like to be friends, maybe not best friends, but at least friendly enough to grab a bite or walk to the library. Knowing their roommate ahead of time isn’t a guarantee that it will work out. Living together certainly reveals more about a person than a typical friendship.
As the year progresses, a roommate might reveal certain traits that make living together difficult. Living together takes compromise from both people. Respect is a big part of a successful living arrangement. Your roommate should not touch or borrow your stuff without asking. Your roommate should be quiet when you are trying to sleep or study. Do you expect to study in your room or are you one of those people who studies elsewhere and comes back to the room to relax and blow off steam? Do you want your room to be a gathering place for others or a quiet place of privacy? So many roommate conflicts are just that; lifestyle conflicts. But the bottom line is that your college student’s living space should feel safe, like home.
So what happens when expectations do not align with the reality of a living situation? Most colleges have Resident Advisors in place for a dorm or on-campus apartments. Their job is to enforce the housing rules and mediate any issues that occur. Of course, there are good RA’s and bad RA’s. If your kid is having issues and not getting anywhere by speaking directly with their roommate, the next step is to speak to the RA. A meeting to set guidelines for living should take place. Hopefully after this, issues will be resolved and things will be OK. If not, then your child should take the next step and speak to someone in the housing office.
If your college student is off campus then there is no authority that they can go to. It is up to them to be honest and start a dialogue with the roommate to work out any issues. This is not always an easy thing to do but it is a life skills learning experience. So much of being away at college involves learning how to advocate and take care of yourself. This learning that occurs out of the classroom is so valuable.
So if your child reveals that they have some issue with their living situation assure them that they can handle it. Talk to them about compromise and communication. Reassure them that if they don’t feel safe or have difficulties there are steps that can be taken to remedy any situation. And make sure they know that you have confidence in them that they will be able to handle this.