stressed student with piles of books

October — The Honeymoon is Over...

Or at least that's how your son or daughter is making it sound. Just when they thought they had things figured out — BAM! Everything hits them at once: mid-terms, papers and projects. Often this mid-semester stress can also push small roommate issues over the edge. Below are some tips for how you can support your student through this challenging time.

  • Remember that, with today's technology (cell phones, computers), you're often hearing the raw emotion of an issue. Encourage your student to take time to cool off and calm down before talking about the issue — it will make problem solving more effective.
  • Keep in mind that you're only hearing one side of the story. Ask your student to describe how they've compromised. This is often the first time a student has lived with someone else and they may need a gentle reminder or guidance on how to do so.
  • Encourage your student to focus on the behavior or what his or her roommate is doing that is frustrating as opposed to demonizing them. Help your son or daughter figure out exactly what the issue is, and if it's as dire as they think, or perhaps blown up because of other stress.
  • Ask your student if they've discussed the issue with their roommate. There's no way for a roommate to know about an issue if they aren't told about it. Help your student come up with an appropriate time, place and approach to address the issue.
  • If your student has approached their roommate, ask if they've talked with their Resident Assistant (RA). RAs will sit down with roommates and serve as an unbiased mediator to help them work towards a compromise.
  • By now your student has been offered the chance to complete a Roommate Agreement Form. Ask your son or daughter if they did so. If the answer is yes, the RA can use the tool to help remind about agreed upon standards. If the answer is no (or if they didn't take it seriously during the "honeymoon"), they can and should revisit it.
  • Establish a timeline for your student to address the concern. Follow up with them to see if it was addressed and how the discussion went.
  • If your student spoke to their roommate, involved their RA, and their issue is still unresolved, have them speak to their Resident Director (RD). Sometimes the RD can help students take roommate concerns more seriously.
  • Wherever your student is in the process, listen, support and help them problem solve, but don't get directly involved with the roommate or other parents. This can make the situation worse and robs your son or daughter of a valuable opportunity to develop assertiveness, conflict resolution and compromise life skills.
  • If you have done all you can to help your student yet the issue is not resolved, consider that your student's conflict may be a redirection. Some conflicts may stem from a case of homesickness. If this is the case for your student, think about making a visit to campus. Binghamton hosts Family Weekend each October — this year's is Friday, Oct. 10 to Sunday, Oct. 12 — with many planned activities for your and your student. That weekend doesn't work for you? Speak with your student to determine the best time to visit.

Last Updated: 6/18/15