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12 Tips for Preparing Kids With ADHD for Life With College Roommates

By Amanda Morin

Is your child with ADHD going off to college? Adjusting to life with roommates can be tricky for kids with ADHD, who can have trouble with focus, self-control, organization and social skills. These tips can help make the transition smoother.

1. Create a housekeeping schedule.

Staying on top of chores can be tough for kids with ADHD. But roommates may not appreciate living with a mess they didn’t create.

Having a schedule to do laundry, clean and shop can help avoid roommate conflicts. If your child has routines and skills (housekeeping and money management) in place before she leaves home, she’s less likely to have giant laundry piles, overflowing trash cans and dust bunnies on her side of the room.

2. Consider a summer bridge program.

If your child hasn’t shared a room before, she may have no idea how to plan for—and manage—having limited space. Some colleges have transition or summer bridge programs. That includes schools with programs for kids with learning and thinking differences.

Participating in a summer program gives your child a chance to experience living in a dorm room. If she has trouble with organization and planning, it can help her see how she might organize her things when she moves in and has to share tight living quarters with a roommate.

3. Work with your child to fill out housing forms.

It’s important to provide accurate information to the school—and on time—in order to be matched with a compatible roommate. (No guarantees she will, however!) Kids with ADHD may put off filling out housing forms and have trouble knowing what’s important to share.

Help your child get the form filled out and back to the school. Make sure she knows that information about things like sleep and study habits is important. If your child is a night owl, she should say so. And if she has specific study habit needs, she should note those, too.

4. Help her compose an initial email.

Encourage your child to contact her new roommate via email. This gives her a chance to organize her thoughts ahead of time, which can be tough for kids with ADHD. The email should provide basic information about where she’s from, who’s in her family and her interests. She may also want to share activities she’d like to participate in at college.

This first email is a good time to ask about dividing up responsibilities for room décor and appliances. Will they need two TVs? How about a microwave or small refrigerator?

5. Teach her not to overshare information about herself.

It can be tempting to get very personal very quickly. This is especially true if your child doesn’t read social cues well. But remind your child she should avoid sharing too much information before she really knows her roommate.

There are a few topics that are important to not talk about in the beginning. For example, it’s not a good idea to share that she goes to therapy or takes medication. She also shouldn’t rush to talk about negative experiences she’s had either in or outside of school.

6. Teach her not to overshare information about her roommate.

If your child has issues with impulsivity, she may tend to blurt out information that’s not hers to share. Remind her to respect what her roommate shares with her. And teach her that asking the question, “Is this something you don’t want other people to know?” can help her understand what she needs to keep to herself.

7. Stress that roommates don’t have to be BFFs.

Help your child understand that her new roommate doesn’t have to be her new best friend. If making friends is hard for your child, she may feel—or hope—that having a roommate can take the place of meeting new people.

Young adults with ADHD may also have trouble controlling emotions. She may need to practice ways to express herself if she’s feeling left out or jealous. But remind her that it’s important for each of them to get to know other people and make other friends, too. And if they end up being close friends, that’s a bonus!

8. Talk about boundaries.

Help your child think about her social boundaries. Is she OK with her roommate having overnight guests? Does she want her roommate to ask before using or borrowing her things? It’s important for your child to know her own boundaries and what makes her uncomfortable. Teach her appropriate ways to express her boundaries so she doesn’t come across as too bossy.

9. Talk about respecting other people’s views.

Young adults with ADHD can have trouble seeing and respecting other people’s viewpoints. But she needs to know that she has to respect her roommate’s boundaries, too. Remind your child to respect her roommate’s privacy when the roomie is sleeping, studying and talking to other friends. She may want to use earphones while listening to music and using her phone and computer.

10. Practice conflict resolution skills.

Living with someone new can take getting used to. If your child has trouble with flexible thinking, you may want to practice making adjustments and working through potential conflicts.

Remind her to talk about problems using “I” statements. Here’s an example. “Your friends are really great, and most of the time I don’t mind when they come hang out here.  But I’m uncomfortable when so many are in our room after quiet hours. It’s hard to sleep. I’d really appreciate it if you guys could move to another room to hang out.”

11. Review safety and medication issues.

Explain the importance of always locking her room. And talk about how to carry her key or key card to keep track of it. Remind her that she shouldn’t keep anything valuable in plain sight and that any medications she takes need to be stored securely, too.

It’s not that she shouldn’t trust her roommate, but she doesn’t really know her (or other people who may be in the dorm). Discuss about how she’ll handle it if someone, including her roommate, pressures her to share her medication.

12. Prepare a contact list.

Your child may not realize some of the perks of living at home that she takes for granted. For instance, if she locks herself out of the house, she can call you to let her in. With a roommate, that might not be an option.

She also may not know who to reach out to when there’s an issue that needs to be resolved, including a problem with her roommate. Work with her to fill in a contact list of campus staff who can help. (You can use this download to get started.)

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom