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Free Parenting Classes Help Suffolk County Parents Promote The Health Of Their Babies And Toddlers

The Parent Cafe, a free program providing young families in Suffolk County with research-backed advice and guidance for promoting the health of their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers will run in Selden, Bay Shore, Bohemia, and Riverhead from July through September, paired with virtual programming during that period.

The initiative, called “The First Five Years: Improving the Health of Mothers and their Babies Through Parent and Nutrition Education,” is hosted by the Community Education Program at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE Suffolk), with funding from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation.

Expert presenters include parent educators, nutrition educators, lactation consultants, and others providing parenting advice in a supportive environment over a light breakfast.

The next Parent Cafes will be held at the Middle Country Public Library in Selden:

  • July 14: Coping with Toilet Learning
  • July 21: Positive Discipline
  • July 28: Coping with Temper Tantrums
  • September 8: Nutrition for Your Toddler (2–3 years)
  • September 15: Nutrition for Your Preschooler (4-5 years)
  • September 22: Feeding Families on a Tight Budget
  • September 29: Breastfeeding Q&As

Additional in-person Parent Cafes will be held at the Family Service League in Bay Shore, the Connetquot Public Library in Bohemia, and CCE Suffolk headquarters in Riverhead. Free childcare is available at all in-person Parent Cafes.

The initiative also offers virtual programming via Zoom.

“Parents are primarily responsible for raising healthy, competent, and responsible members of society,” said Vanessa Lockel, Executive Director of CCE Suffolk. “Yet many lack support and receive conflicting parenting advice. The Parent Cafe allows educators to build a space where parents can connect, enjoy breakfast, and benefit from the latest in parenting education.

“This innovative program offers a holistic, educational approach incorporating parenting, nutrition, and breastfeeding education,” Lockel added. “The setting also provides a safe and welcoming environment for addressing the challenges that pregnant women and new moms often face.”

Ms. Lockel expressed gratitude to the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation for underwriting the Parent Cafe program.

“It’s important for parents to find supportive environments where they can share their concerns and learn valuable, child-rearing skills,” said Kerri Reda, Human Development Specialist with the CCE Suffolk Community Education Program. “Staffed by sensitive experts in parent education, this program and its resources are invaluable to young families of Suffolk County.”

According to CCE Suffolk, today’s parents are in particular need of research-based information, skill-building, and support because many traditional supports – such as extended families, cohesive neighborhoods, income security, and community services – have often been in decline. In addition, various demographic, cultural, and societal dynamics have often intensified the challenges facing many parents.

The National Parenting Education Network says that parenting education supports the health, safety, well-being, and economic success of children through adulthood.

A report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families states that parent education reduces the risk of child abuse and neglect by encouraging parenting practices that promote safety, well-being, and permanency for children and families.

A study by Oregon State University found that parent attendees reported higher school grades, fewer behavior problems, less substance abuse issues, improved mental health, and greater social competence.

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is one of the country’s largest foundations and the largest foundation focused exclusively on healthcare across New York State. The organization provides grants to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable New Yorkers, bolster the health outcomes of diverse communities, eliminate barriers to care, and bridge gaps in health services.

Inquiries about the Parent Cafe can be directed to Christina Nadolne at

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