Parenting Matters Conference

The Parenting Matters in Berrien County conference has been postponed until further notice. All registrants should have received an email with further details. Registration will re-open once a new date has been determined. 

Parenting Matters logo

3rd Annual Parenting Matters Conference!

Saturday, March 28th, 2020

Register HERE for Conference 

This year's conference held at: Berrien RESA
711 St. Joseph Ave
Berrien Springs, MI 49103

For FREE childcare during the conference, please contact:
Dawn Stratton @ Trinity Lutheran Daycare
(Please pack your child's lunch)
**Must reserve childcare by calling Dawn before Friday, March 20th.

For FREE transportation please contact:
Susan Parlak @ 269-471-7725, ext. 1356
**Must reserve transportation by calling before Thursday, March 19th.

Catered lunch is provided!

 Interested in sharing the event with others?
Print the schedule and/or flyer below.

Parenting Matters Conference Schedule

Parenting Matters Conference Flyer

*Parenting Resource Tables Available*

If your agency, program or service would like to have materials on a display table at the conference, please let us know by completing this form.

2020 Workshop Sessions:

Opening Keynote (9:00-10:00 a.m.)


Living Your Best Life (so your kids will too!) 

Maria Dismondy 

Attitude is everything. A positive attitude is a possibility to us all and so is a happy life. This energetic keynote provides conference attendees with strategies to change their mindset and in turn, make a bigger impact in the lives of their children. Maria shows the importance of taking care of yourself in order to be the best version for your family. Attendees will learn to weave character into their family routines, for a direct impact to their children's behavior and morale. 


Session 1- (10:10-11:30 a.m.)


Easy and Effective Ways to Enhance Language and Social Skills of Young Children with ASD.

Dr. Sarah Dunkel-Jackson, PhD, BCBA-D, ?

Behavioral interventions that are provided early and intensively and are focused on enhancing social communication and social interaction have proven the most effective for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Language and social skills are enhanced while challenging behaviors that interfere with learning are reduced. Skilled behavior analysts work collaboratively with families since parents and caregivers play a critical role in supporting their child to develop, pursue, and achieve their own goals and dreams. For families of young children with ASD, there are easy and effective ways to enhance early language and social skills that promote optimal outcomes as their child ages. This presentation will highlight a variety of strategies that families can implement with their own child as they wait for or are involved with early intensive behavioral interventions and applied behavior analysis (ABA) services. A discussion of parent engagement and parent education will be included. (1-5yrs)


Project Potty: It’s a Journey Not a Race

Susan Haselhoff, Lead Parent Educator, Berrien RESA

Every parent dreams of a diaper free world, just picture it- no more messes or buying diapers each month! So you are ready for potty training, but is your child ready? Join us to learn about readiness signs, potty learning strategies, and possible bumps in the road to help make your potty training journey not only successful but less stressful. (ages 1-5yrs.)


Essential Skills Every Child Needs in Their Social Tool Box

Dr. Sarah Dunkel-Jackson, PhD, BCBA-D

Concrete ideas on how to implement character tools in your home.  (ages Birth-3rd grade)


"Why is my kid acting like this?" Helping Little People Cope with Big Feelings

Amanda Lezotte, Berrien RESA

As parents, we are often left with a sense of helplessness regarding how to best support our kids in dealing with strong emotions, coping with pressures, and being successful in various environments. “Is my child having a fit or a meltdown? What is the difference? How should I react?” Learn about the practice of mindfulness, guided meditation and self/co-regulation strategies to support your children and grow their emotional toolbox. Recognize which behaviors are age-appropriate and which behaviors could be early indicators of a mental health concern. Receive tips on how to structure your home environment to be a safe and nurturing place for your child to express their emotions, deal with conflict and stress, develop empathy and become life-long learners.  (ages 3yrs. - 3rd grade)


It All Sounds Greek to Me: Taking the Mystery out of Baby Gear

Kara Gargano, Berrien County Health Dept.

As parents it is often difficult to know what is the best or safest product for our littles. This presentation helps arm you with the questions to ask and criteria to look for. (ages birth - 3yrs)


The Talk: Helping our Kids Develop a Healthy View of Sex

Kathy Wellin, Life Plan

Yes, you CAN talk to your young children about sex . . . and yes, you really should! This workshop will provide practical, age appropriate ways to begin this ongoing conversation with your kids, hopefully setting them up to make wise and healthy sexual decisions in the future. (ages 3yrs. - 3rd grade)



Lunch- (11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.)


Session 2- (12:30-1:30 p.m.)


Strong Families, Successful Children

Kristen Chism, Great Start Collaborative 

There is evidence that indicates that motor based activities can result in increased speech. We will provide you with information regarding speech development from infancy through early childhood. Parents will leave with some activities that will get your child moving and talking! (ages birth - 5yrs)


Taking the Struggle Out of Bedtime

Susan Haselhoff-Lead Parent Educator, Berrien RESA

Bedtime can be an emotionally charged time for you & your child.  We all know sleep is a key ingredient in a child’s growth and development, but what can we do to help them get the sleep they need?  You don’t need to teach your child to sleep; we are all are programmed to sleep. What you can do is teach your child positive sleeping habits and routines.  Join us in this session to learn about the importance of sleep, how much sleep a child needs, strategies for bedtime routines, and possible obstacles that can get in the way of bedtime. (ages 1-5 yrs.)


Technology: Friend or Foe?

Justina Spicer, PhD

Children are growing up in world where technology is all around them. From birth, kids are exposed to phones and smart devices capturing their every move, interact at a very young age with screens and tablets, and are captivated by the instantaneous and engaging aspects of technology. Parents often find themselves trying to establish a healthy balance of technology and asking questions like: How much is too much? When can technology be useful? How much screen time should my child have? This session will present the recent research on early childhood technology and explore the guidelines for creating healthy technology habits early on. (ages Birth-3rd grade)


I Like Me!

Sue Benjamin & Donna Dodge, Northside Child Development Center

Participants will engage in activities that develop self-esteem and positive behaviors in children. Information will revolve around the books, “I Like Myself” and “How Full is Your Bucket”. We will dive into the Five Love Languages and relate the information to the children in our care. (ages 1 yr.-3rd grade)


Reading, Rhyming, and Readiness: Literacy for Kindergarten through 2nd Grade Students

Rebecca Miles, Berrien RESA and Kerry Minderman, Berrien RESA

This is an opportunity for parents, caregivers, and educators to be updated on Michigan's Read by Grade 3 Law and to learn how to best support their children as they develop into readers from Kindergarten through 2nd grade.  (ages Kindergarten-3rd grade)


Creation Station: Let’s Play and Create Math Games

Joe Elsheikhi, Berrien RESA

Math games can be lots of fun and beneficial for the whole family.  This workshop will focus on how to encourage our children’s critical thinking skills.  Parents will have the opportunity to learn and create new math games for all ages. (ages K-3rd grade)



Session 3- (1:45-2:45 p.m.)


Empowering Children with Disabilities Through Social-Emotional Learning

Kelly Fortune, Berrien Springs Deaf and Hard of Hearing Dept.

How does your child see him/herself? How can social-emotional learning, self-determination and self-identity empower your child to be self-confident and self-advocate for themselves.  (ages birth - 5yrs)


Dad 2.0: How to Be the Dad Your Child Needs

Lyndon Azcuna, LifePlan

Fathers have an extremely important role to play in the lives of their children! This workshop will provide support for dads, as well as encouragement on how to be the dad your child needs! No matter the age of your child, you CAN connect and build a relationship with him/her that will withstand the challenges to come. (ages Prenatal-3rd grade)


Conscious Discipline

Maureen Pliley, Northside Child Development Center

Conscious discipline is a research based approach that helps adults remain calm in order to effectively teach children problem solving skills. It is used to teach children instead of punish. We are switching the way we think, and the way we talk to children. (ages 1yr-3rd grade)

Fun with your Little One

Willette Fleischman, LifePlan

Babies are capable of learning much more than we often imagine! This presentation will provide ideas of ways to stimulate your baby's brain and creativity through play. You will leave with age appropriate ideas to encourage brain growth and development. (ages birth-3yrs)  


Money Matters: Teaching Your Kids about Finances

Katrina Portice, Life Plan

Financial training is a valuable resource for anyone -- even kids! This workshop will give parents practical, age-appropriate ways to teach their kids about finances, hopefully setting them up to make wise financial decisions throughout their lives! (ages Kindergarten-3rd grade)


Great Start Readiness Preschool: A Free State preschool 

Tia Miller, Berrien RESA

This presentation will focus on what the Great Start Readiness Preschool program is and look at how families qualify for free preschool. This workshop will help parents explore preschool opportunities in the Berrien County area and explore what preschool has to offer.   (ages 3-5yrs.)



Great Start

Berrien RESA



Contact Information

Susan Parlak Headshot

Parent Conference Coordinator 
Susan Parlak
Tel: 269-471-7725, ext. 1356
Fax: 269-473-1113

Heather S Photo

Parent Conference Coordinator 
Heather Steinbrook

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