Mom, Dad are their own ‘experts’ at Parent Cafés


What: Parent Café

When: Thursday, Feb. 24, 6-8 p.m.

Where: Meets virtually

More info: Visit tinyurl.com/FebruaryParentCafé to register by Monday, Feb. 21.  


SPRINGFIELD — A program at Springfield Public Schools is embracing parents as their own experts by creating an inclusive space to explore the fortes and obstacles of raising children in a complicated world. 

Parent Cafés, organized in partnership with SPS, Head Start of Lane County, and 90by30, are meeting monthly for parents and caregivers to speak from their own wisdom and experiences. 

By design, there is no one “expert” giving a presentation or parenting advice. Parents take the wheel, aided by bilingual hosts that help move the conversation along. 

“The model is unique in that it recognizes that parents are the experts in their own lives,” said Heidi Johnson, who is the family support coordinator at Head Start Lane County.

The next Café will be held virtually on Thursday, Feb. 24 from 6-8 p.m. February’s topic is “Finding Common Ground: A More Perfect Union.” 

Topics may include:

• What to do when two parents have different opinions on how to raise their child

• What to do if you and your child’s teacher have different perspectives

• How to discuss injustice with children 

“Conversations like this are good medicine for the pandemic,” said Bryan Reed, SPS’s English language development specialist and a national board-certified teacher. He also acts as host to Parent Café meetings. 

The ground rules are to speak from your own experience, pass no judgment, and to speak in confidentiality. “We’re open to growing from our own and from each other’s wisdom and listening with a willingness to be changed by what we hear,” Johnson said. 

Once the event starts, participants move to breakout groups of up to five people with an English/Spanish bilingual host. Participants have up to three minutes to speak uninterrupted. Up to three discussion prompts will be given by the hosts that are focused on five protective factors: parental resilience, social connections, chain of parenting and child development, concrete support in times of need, and the social emotional competence of children, Johnson said. 

For instance, in the category of “resilience,” one of the prompts might be: “What drains your energy and what builds it back up?” or “Who is the most resilient person you know and what makes them that way?” 

The bilingual component aims for inclusivity, and so far, has been well-received by residents, Reed said.

“One Spanish-speaking mom at January’s meeting said that Latinos don’t typically get an opportunity to speak at meetings, but she found that people are interested in what she has to say here,” Reed said. “Another person said it really hit her that she belongs to a group of people who care about each other. It made her feel like she’s part of her own community.”

Hearing feedback like that from participants is positive reinforcement for Reed. “If we can come together and support families with bilingual interpretation, we’ve got an inclusive environment,” he said. 

Parent Cafés have been hosted with SPS since 2018, before shifting to virtual Cafés in 2020.  

Johnson said she is looking for people who want to partner to kick off programs like this in rural communities like Creswell, Pleasant Hill, and Cottage Grove. 



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