Content And Community For Black Moms

Rethinking your family’s response to stress takes intention and support—especially during really stressful times like the holidays.

Photo credit: Monstera from Pexels

A little-known fact: Your kids are learning how to respond to stress from you.

If you’ve ever said “Why are you acting like that?” or “Where did you get that from?”… well, sis… it’s time to look in the mirror. But it didn’t start with you. You learned it from your parents, and so on, and so on.

So how can you break and rethink your family’s response to stress—especially during a really stressful times like the holidays?

Licensed marriage and family therapist Jasmine Daniel of children’s mental health app Little Otter talked to us about breaking generational patterns and handling stress as a family—especially around the holidays!

You can turn on captions here, or for a full transcript scroll down. And you can get the Little Otter Holiday Stress Kit by visiting their site.

Transcript

00:00:00:19 – 00:00:05:29

Tomi Akitunde: Hi, everybody. This is Tomi Akitunde with mater mea. 

00:00:09:16 – 00:00:36:19

Yay, the video’s starting. Sorry, it’s been such a long time since I’ve done… (laughs) but I am so excited to be here this evening to talk to you about breaking the stress cycle with our good friends at Little Otter Health, which is an app that provides mental health services and support to families and children. So…. 

00:00:40:12 – 00:00:47:29

See? Accepting. Yay! (Jasmine Daniel: Hello!) 

00:00:48:01 – 00:00:50:08

Hi, Jasmine! (Jasmine: How are you?)

00:00:51:09 – 00:00:52:12

Good, how are you? 

00:00:52:18 – 00:00:53:22

Jasmine: I am good. 

00:00:54:05 –00:01:48:28

Tomi: Yay! It has been such a long time since I’ve done an Instagram Live. Like I don’t know about my tripod setup, so everyone, please, please bear with me.

But I’m so excited to talk to you today. This is a conversation that is happening a lot in our community, and I can’t think of anyone better than you and Little… Little Otter to help us talk about managing stress as a family during, like, this any time, but especially during stressful times like the holidays. 

So I would… I would love to introduce everyone to you. Everyone, this is Jasmine Daniel. She is the director of clinical care with Little Otter. And tell… Tell us a little bit more about yourself. How did you find your way into marriage and family therapy and counseling? 

00:01:49:23 – 00:03:02:09

Jasmine: OK, so I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I’m also a board certified behavior analyst. So I’ve done a lot of work with children and families for over the past decade. Maybe longer than that. I feel like I don’t know when you update to be like, “Actually, it’s been more than that!” But I’ve been doing that for a long while.

I am very fascinated by the idea of families. I think it’s a very interesting concept, and I know you and I have had a little conversation about this in terms of like how two people from completely different space or even, I mean, even other ways of becoming a family. 

But if you’re thinking about kind of what people think traditionally about, you’re thinking about what two people come together from these very different worldviews and are like, “Hey, let’s do this thing and figure out how this is going to work together!” which is something that I’m like “I need to know more about that.”

And so I really got into of thinking and learning because I’m like, “Huh?” Because everybody’s like “And you just do it!” and it’s like, right, it’s not really quite the magic like that there’s work involved in. So really doing that, I think that was something that really spoke to me. And so, yeah, that’s how I got got here.

Little children are just trying to get their needs met. And so when they show up and they look like they’re not listening … what are we not listening to?

00:03:03:12 – 00:03:55:26

Tomi: And that work piece is so… It’s so funny, too, because like, I think that’s a recent phenomenon, thinking about it as work. I think if more people thought about it as work, there wouldn’t be as many problems as what we see right now. 

But yeah, it was. It was really great speaking to you. Pre… Pre this event that just like again, got me, got me together in a lot of ways that I didn’t know I needed to be got together. But if you guys have any questions for Jasmine as we go through our conversation, definitely drop it in the comments or press that little question button bubble button on the bottom right side of your camera.

But my first question is just like kind of creating like a basic understanding of how the stress affects families and the way that families operate. 

00:03:56:24 – 00:05:13:29

Jasmine: So I think thinking about stress, I think we think of stressors like this big, crazy thing, right? But it’s cumulative.

So thinking about like kind of how stress works in terms of family like, right, we have individual stress. So there’s you feeling stressed about whatever’s going on for you. And then if you have children, they have their own stuff. And then if you have a partner, they have their own stuff. And then there’s things that, like a narrative that kind of weaves through that. But then there are individual things. And so when you think about it all together, right, it gets really tricky. 

And specifically, like we’re talking about around the holidays when that brings everything kind of to a head when it’s like, Yeah, I’ve been able to avoid my mother-in-law all this time in the name of COVID. And now here my partner is saying she’s coming to our house next week, what are we doing?

And so really thinking about and having to confront those if you look a bit different around this time. So really, the way stress shows up sometimes is like, you know, people have short tempers. People are, I mean, it doesn’t show… All of us don’t know how to communicate in ways that are the most healthy, including myself, though sometimes it shows up, not as… Not as fun as we like or as communicative as we like. 

So we talk to our families in ways that… That, because they’re a safe space, is not the best way of speaking to people. 

00:05:14:09 – 00:05:14:24

Tomi: Yeah…

00:05:15:20 – 00:06:42:28

Jasmine: And sometimes it’s like that. For little kids, right? It’ll show up really differently where you might see more tantrums around holidays, around new things, specifically in this time in the world with COVID and everything where it’s like, we haven’t been around these people, and especially if you have like a toddler.

So like last time, they’re around family members, they were like arm baby. And now they can do things and everybody’s like, “I still want to hold you!” and this kid’s like, “Let go of me, I’m trying to do my thing.”

So there’s a lot of different things that go on there and may look like a child being what a lot of people like to say “defiant.” I really don’t like the word “defiant” and I’ll tell you why. It’s because it shows intent to be a way. And they’re just trying to get their needs met.

Little children are just trying to get their needs met. And so when they show up and they look like they’re not listening or they’re not doing whatever, what are we not listening to? What have we missed here? And so really thinking about that in terms of stress. If I’m feeling stressed in some ways, I may be showing my child exactly what that looks like, and they’re just mirroring back what they’re saying. 

And so really being mindful of that too, like it may look like your child’s acting up, but it’s really a lot going on for you. And so really thinking about that in a family forum and everybody has less room for it, right? So if your cup is full, your kid’s cup is full, they have a tantrum. You have no patience. It’s a it’s a perfect storm for some not fun interactions. 

00:06:43:06 – 00:07:07:23

Tomi: Right, right. And something that you said that stood out to me is just like, how like the way that individual stresses can create this like perfect storm of just not-great things, but it’s your kids mirroring what what they’re seeing.

Can you talk a little bit more about like why that mirroring is happening? And like some things that are happening that parents aren’t even aware is happening? 

00:07:08:09 – 00:10:02:00

Jasmine: Yeah, for sure. So I think sometimes we think about, like, and I think as kids specifically get older, I think when kids are really tiny, we’re more mindful of the fact that our behavior is what they’re looking at. So when they’re really small kids, they don’t have any language. We’re really mindful of how we’re using language, we’re mindful of the type of words we’re using because you don’t want them to repeat those in other places. You’re really paying attention to things. And then as your kids get a bit older, you think they know better, they can do this better. 

There’s all of these ideas we attribute to children and forget that their children. And so they’re still learning by looking at you. When they feel something that’s unfamiliar to them, they’re looking to you to say, “Hey, and this is how we handle it.” So when you’re talking about specifically like stress, right, when I’m feeling like there’s five new people out of our house and we don’t know them. This kid is playing with my toy. I don’t like my toys touched. And then your mother-in-law goes and touches the dish on the stove and you go off on her and then he pushes his cousin and you’re like, “Why are you pushing?” 

And so really thinking about how we’re showing those things ’cause they’re just trying to… They’re trying to figure out how to, how to navigate this world. They’re small people, they don’t know. And so really thinking about, I mean, think about as an adult, you’re looking for the person who can mirror what you’re thinking about, too. You just have more resources to do it, right? So you’re thinking about Instagram. People follow pages that help them learn more about what they’re thinking about. Kids, you’re they’re Instagram, you are what they’re mirroring. You’re what they’re looking at. 

And so we’re really looking at that and thinking about that, like, hey, all the things you’re doing. In the same way the Instagram lays out this nice all these paneling, your kids have these thoughts of you, too. And so really thinking about like, “Hey, when I’m thinking about sad, OK, I have a visual of what that looks like. This is what mom does. When I feel upset. This is what mom or dad does” or whatever parent or caregiver you are because I don’t want to isolate people. But really thinking about this is how kids are learning these things and thinking about these things. 

And even if they don’t have this traditional caregiver role, mom, dad, whoever… Whoever the caregiver is, is who they’re looking to and talking about those things are so important for kids. Being open about emotions and how you’re feeling and talking about stress is so important and acknowledging when you’re not doing it right all the time. So like, if I do go off on my mother in law , then taking your child and saying, Hey, mommy didn’t do that right? And having grandma there and saying, “Hey, I’m so sorry for that, I think my fuse was a little short.” And engaging in a way that you would also want them to engage so they can see what makeup looks like. Like, No, we’re not going to do it right every time. But here’s how we fix it when we don’t do it right now. 

00:10:03:12 – 00:11:12:16

Tomi: Jasmine, I’m obsessed with you.

And you guys, for some reason, Instagram is saying that they’ve turned off a few features. So if you have questions for Jasmine, I can’t see if you’re like commenting or anything, I can’t see it. So if you can press the question bubble to ask the question of of Jasmine, let’s do it that way because I’m not seeing any any comments because I think Instagram turned it off. 

So my next question is, you know, I really love what you just shared about, about modeling this behavior, what making up looks like, what not getting it right the first, second, or third time looks like, including your kid in that. And I love this, but I feel like it takes a lot of like internal reflection that can be hard to tap into during high stress periods like the holiday. So what are some ways that we can understand the way that we deal with stress so that we can, like, start showing how to regulate ourselves to our kids? 

00:11:13:08 – 00:14:20:26

Jasmine: So I think one of the first ways and the first ways kind of thinking about this is, like you’re saying, being reflective as much as possible. People can only self-reflective a level at which they even understand what’s going on around them. So to be fair, everybody’s not going to have that same reflective level. And this is like for you and for others, right? So maybe some of your behavior you’re not reflecting on. And then when you’re seeing somebody else not be reflective, that’s frustrating because you’re like, they’re not being reflective. Maybe everybody’s not reflective here. And there’s no ultimate truth for how to behave. 

So just because you think when such and such does this, this is rude, doesn’t mean they feel that way. They may feel like, “This is how I engage with family. This is what I think family looks like. But I’m able to say whatever I want to say to you, and it’s OK.” And you’re like, “How dare you speak to me however you want? That’s not OK.” So really being communicative if you don’t know how to be reflective, at least communicating and not not to say everybody can be reflective in the ways they know how. But really giving yourself a second chance and giving other people that chance to explain what they were thinking about, to be patient with others and not take offense immediately, to recognize that we’re all works in progress and we all don’t know what to do every single time something’s going on. 

And that’s OK. 

And so I think the biggest thing is patience in all of it, I think. And then communication for sure. It’s communicating with those around you, letting them know, “Hey, this didn’t feel good to me.” Again, remembering how would you want to tell your child to do it? So, “Hey, I keep telling this kid at school they’re not doing something I like. What do I do here?” Modeling that for your kids. So every time your sister says something, you’re annoyed. OK, how do you reflect back? How do you show what that looks like? And then as a parent, though, being kind to yourself, you’re not going to get it right. 

Like you said, second, third, fourth, fifth. We might be on time number 10 and that’s OK and taking care of yourself. So you have the space to think about these things because you may not. Again when we’re talking about stress. If you’re already full, your cup is up here. And one thing happens, you may not have that space. So taking time to take care of yourself, really prioritizing what is necessary and what isn’t during this holiday season, if that is getting together with people or not. If it’s making your own traditions or not and really thinking about what that looks like, what what does this time mean to you, really being reflective on that? Is it about being around people? Is it about a specific thing? Is it about a specific group of people? What does that mean? What does that look like? And really, again, giving yourself a break. If there are things that you can’t communicate to someone else that they can help you with, don’t be too proud to ask for help. 

I know that that gets really tricky. And sometimes it’s like, I got this. I can do this and asking for help is hard. And it really is. It’s super hard to ask for help, especially when you feel overwhelmed in knowing if that person says no, you have nowhere else to turn. But giving somebody an opportunity to provide that for you is kind of the first step in that as well. Did that answer your question? 

00:14:21:12 – 00:15:21:24

Tomi: Yeah. And then some. I feel like it’s it spoke to the part about the holidays and like families in general that I don’t think is spoken about a lot is just like this need to perform the script that other people have, like told you you’re supposed to perform. And realizing like, Actually, no, I don’t. I don’t want to, and I don’t have to. Then you get to sit with those feelings that that decision brings up for you, but I know for me and mine, we’re not doing x y z.

And it also touches on, just like, you know, mater mea’s community is primarily Black women, but just also this this narrative that we have that like we don’t get, we don’t get to. Like we have to show up, we have to be this person for everyone, and that’s stressful, too, and there’s no more stressful time than like the holidays when it’s like… Especially this holiday season where more people feel more comfortable gathering like, “Oh, I got to do this, I got to do that. I gotta.” Yeah, you don’t have to. 

00:15:22:15 – 00:16:43:01

Jasmine: Yeah. And I think exactly like you’re heading as black women, there is right. There’s this narrative like the Black Girl Magic and all these things we’re supposed to have. Yeah, we’re supposed to do in a very specific way and show up and perform in a very specific way. And sometimes you’re not feeling that way. You’re not feeling “magic,” you’re not feeling all of the things that are put on you. What what is a mom supposed to be or what is a parent supposed to look like? Or what are all these things? And so really asking yourself one, how did you come up with these narratives? Like, who is… Who is, who is telling you? Is the other outside people and do those opinions matter? Or is it you telling yourself that?  

And really, why? And is there ways you can show up that are still congruent with what you believe and how you believe that still allow for you to be refreshed and take time for yourself and really do what you need? And I think thinking about that in terms of like, even thinking about being around family or even making chosen family right? The family that you get to make better people, you feel comfortable around. And what that looks like, it feels like is really important and that you matter. 

That it’s not just about like, “Oh, I really want my kids to have this is my partner to have this and this person had this.” But like, what do I want to do? And it’s not being selfish to consider that. 

00:16:43:15 – 00:17:48:09

Tomi: Yeah, because a lot of these things are like. Like one, who told you that? But also there are some things that I realized I was doing that no one asked me to do and that, like no one would miss if I stopped doing it. And it was just this, this narrative that I was building around like, I want to do more work on inner child hurt and wounds that you’re trying to fix through the actions you do as an adult. But it was just me trying to like, feel better about myself, but making it a stressful thing wasn’t a joyful thing, but obviously making the turkey and like going… Running all over Christendom to get the fixings for everything like no one cared. 

They like that. I did it, but they didn’t… If I had told them what, I was actually crying and if my hair was long enough, I would have like wrapped myself in my hair like hide from everyone like, “Oh, don’t do that, then.” It’s all. It’s a lot of stuff in our own heads that absolutely we need to to investigate and understand. Like why, why this is happening, why did I choose to do that?

00:17:48:11 – 00:17:49:18

Jasmine: For sure. 

00:17:50:14 – 00:18:11:02

Tomi: Definitely. So you’ve touched on this at different points in the in the conversation so far, but what are some other ways families can handle stress during the holidays and beyond? I know that Little Otter has a really great kit that’s coming out soon. 

00:18:11:15 – 00:18:13:13

Jasmine: Yeah, so Little Otter….. Actually tomorrow…

00:18:13:24 – 00:18:14:16

Tomi: Oh, yay! 

00:18:15:00 – 00:18:58:15

Jasmine: Yeah, we have a holiday toolkit that’s coming out and it’s free to families. So you can all take it. It really touches on four key areas: family dynamics or really supporting around that. Thinking about caregiver mental health, so what is your mental health like? What is your child’s emotional and behavioral health like? And then what is your family stress looking like specifically around the holidays?

And so every one of those things, you get some feedback about what’s going on, but you also get an activity to do, which is super helpful and awesome because it’s something that’s active for you with the call to action for you to be able to like, Hey, I’m going to sit with my family, we’re going to do this thing, and that’s going to be super helpful.

00:19:01:08 – 00:19:16:24

Tomi: I I love the idea of like, creating an activity there to kind of address stress as a, as a family like I had never heard that before us, I think that’s so, so great. So where can people get the the toolkit when it goes up tomorrow? 

00:19:16:26 – 00:19:39:02

Jasmine: So if you go to LittleOtterHealth.com, you can get it there and you can take it there. You can sign up for us and then look in that area, but you don’t have to sign up in order to access it. You do have to sign up in order to get through it, but you don’t have to sign up for services, so you don’t have to be receiving care from us in order to get that so LittleOtterHealth.com

00:19:39:21 – 00:21:24:05

Tomi: Awesome. And again, guys, Instagram has turned it off, so I can’t see comments, so I hope you guys are talking amongst yourselves in there. But if you have specific questions for Jasmine, I won’t see them unless you put them in the questions bubble.

So press that question bubble on the right hand side, you already have a few questions coming in, but just want to include that in case you’re like “Tomi’s not acknowledging anything I’m saying right now.” I can’t see what you’re saying! But I can’t see it if you put it in that question bubble. All right. 

Oh man. Our phone conversation, it was one of those where I wish like I had hit record. 

Like, I need this. This is so, so helpful. But we’ve talked a lot about like how.. What stress looks like in your immediate family, you know, your parent… As a parent, with your partner, with your kids, but it’s a generational experience, like we’re all feeding off of someone else’s stress and it you can kind of like, get bigger when when in-laws—which is triggering for me—are in or your parents, if you have a relationship with your parents, that is kind of fraught. So can we talk about like how to respond to stress in a way that is intentional, that can also feel kind of like. Like, it’s not being received by the person who is triggering the stress, who’s outside of our immediate family?

00:21:24:22 – 00:24:41:11

Jasmine: So I think in thinking about again, this goes and I do, I do wish we recorded our conversation. I feel like everybody here would have loved it because it was so good. 

But in thinking about like, you know, in-laws, cousins, siblings, whatever you have that are outside of your typical household, right? There are things that are historic. That… That trigger you sometimes, right, because you have that history with this person, so if your sister knows every time she says, does whatever this does this thing in you and you’re saying, “Hey sister, please don’t do that thing” and your sister is like, “But I know this button and I’m going to push this button” because she has our own stuff going on. And like you’re talking about, all of us are performing, whatever we’re performing, needing whatever validation and all those things from other people, how do we handle that? So I think the first thing is responding to people… Know when you have little eyes watching. 

That’s that’s the first thing. So being mindful of that, if you’re a parent. If you’re not a parent then you’re on parent practice right now, and that’s what I used to tell my husband, “We’re in parent practice. We got to practice doing this so I can be ready when there’s little people…” 

Because it takes a little bit. It’s not just immediate and you’re like, Yeah, I got this. All of a sudden, I’m a parent and I’mma do better!” It doesn’t, it doesn’t go that way in case you’re wondering. It doesn’t. So really thinking about like, “OK, how do I talk about this?” Make sure I said what I need to say with no expectation in return. So I’m going to say, “Hey, you know what? I don’t love when you do that.” Your sister keeps doing it, then you have a plan for yourself. One is it, I’m ignoring this behavior. I’m not dealing with this right now? Is it, I’m going to keep myself regulated and move to a different space with her. 

Am I going to use my environment to my advantage? Can we be in separate rooms? If I know every time I engage, there’s something else going on that’s triggering for me, and she’s not paying attention to what I’m saying. Is it my, you know, my mom does this thing that I don’t like every single time I’m around her and now my kids are watching me do that. And now they treating me the way I treat my mom, and now I feel a way about it? So really thinking about how that shows up, but really with no expectation.

We can only control our own behavior. We cannot control anyone else’s. So knowing that knowing that you have a break, taking a break, if you need one, leaving the room, if you need to. And then like really, again, using your environment to your advantage. If you need to move away from wherever that person is. If you’re like, “Hey, we did 30 minutes at this house, I need to go.” That’s OK. Give yourself that out. If you need to have a code word with your partner or your kids or whatever it is, and it’s like, “I think the apple pie is ready.”

You’re out of there! Ultimately, self-care is so important. And I think a lot of parents oftentimes think, “Well, if I don’t stay here and show my kid this and they don’t have time with their family, what are they going to learn?” They’re going to learn that they are important and their feelings matter. And that’s what you’ve taught them, that I leave this environment in order to protect my space and protect my own safety. 

00:24:42:12 – 00:25:16:00

Tomi: Ooof, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. That makes me think of conversations around bodily autonomy that I think can also be a form of stress for for parents and kids where you’re like, “Oh, I don’t want to hear what people have to say if my kid doesn’t want to hug them or give them a kiss” or like. Yeah, I think this would be a great time to talk about, like supporting your child’s bodily autonomy. 

What does that look like? 

00:25:16:27 – 00:27:28:00

Jasmine: So I think I mean, I think it looks different for different people, different cultures, different families have different ideas of what that looks like. We’re thinking specifically, we already talked about the audience of Black women, right? Where we have been taught, right? You do what’s supposed to be done in your family, in your culture, in whatever. And that’s how how you do, this is how you’re supposed to be. But really thinking about teaching your child to trust themselves and their intuition and what makes them comfortable is really important, but it’s not all or nothing. 

I think sometimes in this conversation we get to a place where it’s like, “No.” And your kid is like rude or whatever to the person. We’re not saying, “Don’t touch me, back up” is what we’re teaching, but you can’t give your child alternatives, right? You can say. “How about we high five, Uncle Bob?” Or think about other ways that you’re doing it, especially in this pandemic time? Maybe it’s we don’t want anybody tells anybody. Maybe we elbow bump instead. Maybe there’s other things and we normalize that as OK. 

And I think specifically in these times, making those changes is so beneficial as the norm. So if you come in as a family, as a parent who has your own autonomy and says, “Hey, you know, as a family, we’re not doing hugs this year, but we are elbow bumping, want to give you that. If you’re like, we’re going to do pointer finger touches, whatever that looks like. You know that’s what you decide, it’s a lot easier. And then if you see your kid is stuck, if you see your child is feeling uncomfortable, advocate for them. 

Don’t let your child just be uncomfortable and say “Hey, speak up!” They may not know what to say. It’s hard enough as an adult to know what to say when somebody leaning in for a hug and you’re like, “No, thank you.” So as a little kid, you’re like, “I don’t know what to do here.” So support them. Let them know it’s OK to not know and not understand, but also explain to your family members. Be proactive about if something comes up. Communication again, I think all of the time, all of these things communicating with people, what you’re doing, how you’re doing… If people can’t respect the way you’re raising your child or thinking about things, then it’s a different conversation you might need to be having. 

00:27:28:02 – 00:28:51:17

Tomi: Right. Definitely. One of the things that I love about Little Otter, like, besides me wishing that it existed when I was a kid, like having mental health issues and really feeling like I didn’t have anyone to talk to about them, is that like it… It advocates for the idea that kids are people. Like that they’re not extensions of their parents, that they have their own inner world and like are allowed to feel the way that they feel about about things and should have safe spaces to express that. 

And the safest space should be with their parents. 

But something that I read was just like a lot of parents don’t know what stress looks like with kids until it’s like a problem. Like, it’s specifically viewed as like you said, being defiant or, you know, being, you know… mater mea’s team no spanking. But like, you know, there are people who like pop their kids when they’re acting out or what have you. So what are the signs of…? I actually think this is a question somewhat asked… What are some of the non-verbal signs my kid could be stressed? 

00:28:52:15 – 00:32:15:19

Jasmine: So I think it’s several things, one, if you notice any major changes in your child. That’s something to pay attention to. So if you’re realizing your child used to be super outgoing and now they’re really quiet. If they’re really quiet and now they’re changing differently, if their eating habits change. All of those things change. You want to zoom in and pay attention to what’s happening with your child. What’s different with them? What’s going on for them in that moment? And so really paying attention to that. The other piece is—and you commented on it about the spanking and those things—I think and let’s say specifically, again, Black community and poppin and spanking and those things that have been kind of normalized throughout the interactions that Black people have with their children, that when is the child learning what they should be doing? So if we’re like “You don’t do that!”

Cool. What do I do? So making sure that when you’re making those corrections, when you’re saying those things, when you’re noticing something different, not they haven’t eaten what they typically would eat and saying “You’re not getting up from this table until you eat.” And now creating potentially another issue with them in food, but really saying “What’s going on? Is there something else you’d like to eat? If not, let’s talk about it.” Making communication something you’re doing. And so paying attention to your child. Again, giving them language for what they may feel like. They may not know. 

And I think a lot of times families will talk to me and say, like, “I asked them and they didn’t say anything!”

Well, a lot of times you ask adults and they don’t say anything. So you think children with less language and less interaction with the world without as much experience with these types of emotions are going to be able to say to you, “Hey, you know what I’m feeling? I’m feeling really sad when you do this, really anxious when this happens…” Kids are not going to be able to tell you that. And so sometimes as parents, I think because you’re kind of so longing for a rule book, you’re wanting your child to say back to you, this is what’s happening and then you let that be your out. 

So they say, “I’m fine!” and you’re like, “I asked.” Instead of sticking with that, like, you’re saying, those non-verbal things. When I’m seeing, you’re not showing up the way you typically show up, you don’t want to hang out with your friends. You don’t want to take phone calls from people that used to take phone calls with and saying, “Hey, let’s talk about it. What’s going on here? How is this going for you? How are you feeling about this?” A lot of things happen… I mean, we’re living in this pandemic world where we’ve kind of normalized this is what’s happening, and we’re not continuing to have conversations with kids about like when this is going to end, right? 

We stopped having “end” conversations after the two weeks that turned into two years. So we don’t have those conversations, but really talking to them about it because their whole worlds are different. Like they thought the world was one way, now it can be different. So that brings up uncertainty about so many other things. And if we stop them from communicating right, they’re not talking to us, then they’re internalizing those things. And then you may see some of those nonverbal or you may see verbally, right? So you may see I know the question was about nonverbal, but you may see that acting out, that talking back, that all of those things and instead of seeing it as defiant or disrespectful, really saying like, “This is not how my kid typically shows up in the world. So how can I support them better? How do I get them to a place so they feel comfortable enough to do whatever it is, they need to, want to… Express themselves in the way that feels comfortable for them?” 

00:32:16:21 – 00:32:41:27

Tomi: Definitely. I… What I like about that, too, is just like I think with all of these conversations in our community, it’s kind of like “The talk,” the… Like, it’s like one big conversation and then that’s it. But he is advocating for it, like knowing your kid and consistently having communication and conversation with them. 

00:32:41:29 – 00:34:49:01

Jasmine: And trusting yourself. Like if in your gut, you’re like, “This… Something’s not sitting right.” Believe that. Believe it. That if you’re… If you are saying, you know, my child said “It’s fine” and they had a conversation with you and that doesn’t sit right, believe your intuition, believe what you know and get your child support. Because it’s nothing worse than thinking I should have done this differently and then there’s a different outcome, or your child’s older and you’re having a conversation about “I really thought about getting you therapy when you were 7 and we didn’t do this,” and now they’re 27 talking about, “When I was 7, here are things that were really hard for me, and I wish you would have…” And so really, there’s no harm in being preventative or proactive, talking about things over and over, is super important.

One conversation is one conversation. And so it should always be multiple conversations. It should always be checking in and checking in. I know there’s parents who say, “We talk about mental health all the time.” What does that really look like?” Remembering that you’re not making… When I go back to like you’re your child’s Instagram board, you’re their Instagram Story. 

They’re only taking what they take, though, right? So every single thing you do, they may hold this one and that one doesn’t stick and they hold this one and that one doesn’t stick. But if you’re consistently and constantly having these tiny conversations every time there’s a feeling that comes up, we’re talking about feelings. And not saying WE’RE TALKING ABOUT FEELINGS, but just talking. Because I think a lot of parents do that. Like “We can talk about our feelings!” and they talk about talking about it, but they don’t ever talk about what’s actually happening. So instead of saying, like, “Hey, I see you feel sad and you know, you can talk to me about your feelings and feelings matter and we care about feelings.” 

And then your child never said anything and you talked about feelings is not the same as saying, “Hey, I recognize you don’t seem like you want to hang out your friends. You want to tell me more about that?” Because a lot of times the parents, we get really lecture-y. And so you start teaching your child something in your mind. “I’m going to tell you how you can talk about this” and don’t give them space to speak, and you can learn so much in listening to it in that regard. So being really mindful of that as well. 

00:34:51:00 – 00:35:22:15

Tomi: I am like keeping quiet because I’m going to transcribe this later to create captions, but I just know that I was internally hooting and hollering the entire time you just spoke like that is… Chef’s kiss. That is so good. OK. 

Oh, this is a great question that is related to this. Can Jasmine elaborate on checking in with our kids? How do we get them to open up? 

00:35:24:02 – 00:36:24:01

Jasmine: So I think that’s important. it depends on the age of the child. So I think across across the age span—I don’t know if you want to type in how old your child is—but across the age span, it’s a little different. So like really small kids, it may not be—and I think sometimes we want this kind of conversation with the child. Likely not going to happen. So requiring eye contact and you to be focused and don’t look away from me and all that is not likely a thing. But if you play with them, right, do what they’re doing. Take a step into their world, right? So if your kid loves Legos, while you’re playing Legos, you can talk about things, too. 

So they’re talking to you about, “Oh, mommy, this doll is blah blah blah.” You can say, “Oh, where did you learn about that?” Or “How did you talk about that?” It doesn’t have to be straight to the kill every time. It doesn’t have to be like,” Hey, I’m noticing this thing, and I want to say it to you.” But really like, how can I be creative, come into your world, sit with you, make you feel safe so then you can give me back some information about what’s going on for you?

00:36:25:16 – 00:37:25:03

Tomi: I love that. And I use that with with a friend’s kid who was was beating up on his, on his doll. And that was the doll that they got him to like, be OK with, you know, the the introduction of a new sibling, a baby, a baby sibling. And he was just like beating up on it. I was like, Hey, what’s going on? Why are you? Why are you beating up on the doll? And he was like, “Oh, she doesn’t listen and she’s not going to the potty.”

And he was carrying like all this stress about like being potty trained and being told he’s not listening and also like being a big brother. And it was just like so much easier to be like mad at him than to, like, sit down. “Why are you doing that? What’s going on? Tell me what’s happening with you, the you’re playing with your toys?” So I am backing up what you’re saying with that story. 

00:37:25:05 – 00:39:25:15

Jasmine: And I think a lot of that and what you just highlighted is like how our dialogue to our kids becomes their internal dialogue, right? So you’re saying, “You’re not listening, you’re not listening, you’re not listening.” And that’s all they’re hearing. It’s “I’m not listening. I’m not listening.” And that’s the language they’ve learned to describe things and talk about things. So really, one, having a variety of language is really important. Even if you’re describing the same thing, you want your kid to be able to learn different ways to say things, different ways to talk about things. And if you’re saying it the same way over and over again and they’re not hearing you, they are not the problem. 

We need to find a different way so they can understand. We need to speak into their understanding. Not, “Why don’t you get me?” That’s not their job as a child. Their job is not to get you. You as a parent have to get them and try to get them, and if you can’t, get some support around that. And that’s OK. It’s OK if you need support with that, but didn’t problem, it’s your child for not understanding all of these new things in this world where they don’t know. 

That’s not what we want to do to them, we don’t want to make them feel like they’re a problem when they’re a small child, just trying to understand something. So really helping them… If I’m saying always, “My kid’s not listening and they keep not listening,” that doesn’t feel productive. So what do I do now? Am I not modeling for them how to do this thing? Do I not grab them and hand over hand it for them and show them, “OK, this is how we wash our hands?” Am I not getting down on their eye level and talking to them, looking in their faces so they can hear what I’m saying? Am I not slowing down enough and talking to them and really thinking about that? And I know I’m being really parent heavy and I’m not trying to parent shame in any way because I know every parent doesn’t have the same tools or know the same thing. Again. 

This is why Little Otter exists, to really support around having a plan and knowing what to do and having help and what to do in order to really support your child and make them feel really helped by you. Because a lot of what… Again, what kids learn, what they know is from who they are around. 

00:39:26:01 – 00:40:27:14

Tomi: Right. This is, like, easily segued into the audience question portion. But the person who asked the question. She said her her kid is 5 years old. So I feel like you… The things that you said kind of wrap into that, that age range as well. But speaking of Little Otter, I would love to know more about what support… What getting support looks like for kids because I think in our community, there’s been this normalization of like self-care and getting therapy as an adult, but less so about getting support for your kid. And something that you said when we talked was just like the shame around a diagnosis in our community. I would love, love, love to talk about, OK, you’ve identified that your kid needs support. 

There’s really great article—not to brag—on mater mea about when to know when your kid needs professional help, but I would love to hear your thoughts on that. What does getting support for a kid look like? 

00:40:27:26 – 00:46:01:22

Jasmine: So I think the first thing about getting support, I mean, I think, like you said, we normalized it for adults. But then what does that mean for your kid? Am I…? I think a lot of families have said to me, “Am I putting my child in the system?” Whatever that means, whatever big system we think exists. 

But really, it’s getting them support for when they need it. And at different times, that may look different. Sometimes it may be getting you support so you can support them. So it may not be one size fits all. You get support, they get support. Togethet or it may be you get support now, they get support later and some kids are getting. I mean, kids are so resourceful now. Kids are asking for support. They’re like, “Hey, I want somebody to talk to, can you help me with this?” And so I think the bigger thing around, specifically in our community and diagnosis… 

It’s really tricky. So thinking about diagnosis, one. I think for a lot of families feels like, “This is just another thing people are saying because they’re not competent. Because they don’t understand how we are, what we do, what our families are like,” which is not accurate. So I want to I want to speak on that a little bit. And I want to say something I said to you before because I think it’s really important. So I think one piece of that is, I think as—and I’m going to speak specifically as a black women, woman, to black women specifically who are this person who I have been—is like, “I want to have a person of color, be the person seeing my child, talking to my child, engaging with my child. 

If not, I don’t want it.” And I think that is a wonderful idea to want to support people and I’m not saying, don’t do that. So don’t hear me say that. What I am saying is. That to not think that other people can be culturally humble or culturally aware enough to engage may disadvantage how you’re able to receive support. Because in the same way as if you were in the ER right and you had a physical emergency, you wouldn’t say until I have a Black doctor, don’t touch my broken leg. 

You know how much more damage you can create by just continuing on that same leg? And they say, “We won’t have a doctor for six months!” and you’re like, “OK, I will wait six months and walk on this broken leg.” Now you’ve created all these other issues in your body. Because you said this person wouldn’t understand how I think. Now they may not be your end all, be all, and some people are going to go through different therapies and go through different people and they may look like them. They may look different from them, you may switch from somebody who looks like you to somebody different. You may switch from somebody who looks different to somebody who looks like you. And that’s OK that every person doesn’t have to be the final person, but they meet maybe the support you need right now and and getting help and getting support doesn’t always have to look like what your end result that you’re thinking of is going to be. 

It doesn’t have to be, “Oh, I think if this person doesn’t look like me, they won’t understand these things.” But they may. And The fact that you don’t want somebody to come to you? Right. The reason for that is because, “I don’t want somebody to show up to me with preconceived notions and that I’m a monolith.” How are we then going to say about other people, “Hey, you only understand this one way of living. You’re a monolith”. So really thinking about how to get that support? And so I really I say that to say that there are way. 

And then we talked about a number and no in general. Unfortunately, there’s not enough Black mental health professionals to help every Black person to support. Not saying you should not support. It’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying, you can still receive support, and people understand and are learning and can show up for you in ways that can really help you where you are now. 

And so that’s the first piece of that. The second, because I know we’re going to talk about diagnosis a little bit, so I want to say those pieces, is that when you’re talking about diagnosis, thinking about diagnosis, a lot of families… I love, a family said to me and I think I shared this with you, “Are you going to look for diagnosis?” And it’s not something you’re looking for. It’s something that shows up in the same way as if… I mean, I’m thinking like as a chef’s recipe, right? If I say I have pie crust, apples, cinnamon, whipped cream. You’re saying, “You got apple pie.” And I’m saying, “Nope, I got pie crust. I got apples….” As a chef. I know what that’s called. 

And so what I do. It’s just name what you’re saying to me, so it’s not about there is a diagnosis that has to exist in a way and somebody wants to put that on you. But that allows us to name it and then allows us to get evidence-based, research-based treatment to support you in the best possible way. And I’m not confused or living delusionally that specifically in communities of color, that numbers for certain diagnoses have been higher and all of those things we are aware. 

But the goal in making sure you get really evidence-based care, that you have a really good assessment, which is something that Little Otter does, is making sure that they’re looking at all of those factors, thinking about all of those things, taking those to account. And then again, naming for you what’s necessary and not when it’s not saying, “Hey, this is not clinically significant, and that’s OK, too. We’re still going to support you.” And so really thinking about that and looking at that is really important. And I know there’s been a ton of talking back to back. 

00:46:02:01 – 00:46:29:21

Tomi: I mean… But I think I think it’s important because especially the part about the diagnosis that helps remove some of the shame that people have about, like getting… Getting a diagnosis and feeling like it’s a personal attack or like they did something wrong as a parent. Or it really depersonalizes it and makes it look very clear what the work that it’s doing and what it’s not doing.

00:46:30:09 – 00:47:00:21

Jasmine: And depending on the diagnosis, sometimes it may show up now, it may not later. Other times there are certain neurodevelopmental things that won’t change your brain. We can’t change your child’s brain, but we can support them and how they show up and how they’re handling things that are happening for them in different ways that help them interact with society and in ways that are more, I would say socially acceptable, I don’t know what the right word is, I’m trying to think of better wording.

00:47:01:26 – 00:47:03:27

Tomi: Maybe like not as maladaptive. 

00:47:04:01 – 00:47:30:26

Jasmine: Yeah, yeah. And ways that. Yeah, look. Hmm. Now you have me thinking about a good word, I’m trying to think of the right word. Cuz now maladaptive make me think about a whole nother thing, but showing up in ways that are perspective taking, right? That show up in ways that they’re able to look at how someone else may be thinking about something or even how you are, I think is an important piece of that and we can help them have those skills. 

00:47:31:27 – 00:47:49:06

Tomi: Awesome. And early intervention is so important as well. But our next question is any recommendations on how to broach the topic of grief and loss and the stress that that brings for a 7 year old, especially during the holidays? 

00:47:51:00 – 00:50:09:15

Jasmine: I think this is the conversation we’ve had as a team a ton. About grief and loss specifically, especially around COVID and all of these things and around the holidays, right? It’s at an all-time high because you’re so aware of who’s present and who isn’t. I think for for a 7 year old, specifically one, I’m going to go back and what I’ve been saying the whole time communication, really talking to your child about what happened, whatever your belief systems are about what happens next or if nothing happens next, what… What you tell them, how you talk about that, I think is really important in a way that they can understand. 

The other piece is not trying to lean into your child trying to forget or move away from it because it’s uncomfortable. And if you’re grieving, it’s OK for your kids to see you cry. Again, they’re going to look at you as the model of what they can do, and you can cry. You can feel sad. You can show them that it’s OK to feel sad, but then also have fun with them. You can make memories and do things. Make new memories for people. You can have pictures of them up for the holiday so you can talk about them. Tell stories. I think a really good thing for little kids is really helping them understand that if the memory of someone still exists, then they still exist in our hearts and with us. 

And so really thinking about that and keeping that alive. So even if it’s a picture and you doing an activity with that picture? Let’s talk about time that, I’ll say grandma, really helped you with something or something. Really loved that she did. And those things that there’s something that she always ate. Then bringing that in. I had a family who I loved did this every year. They they ate the cake. There was… The mother’s father passed away and on his birthday they made the cake. That was his favorite, and they all ate it together and they told stories about him. And that was something that was really special for them to be able to do. So if there’s a holiday dish that that person typically would have brought or any of those type of things really bringing that in, talking really openly with your child about what that looks like. 

And I mean what that feels like. And you can say, “I feel sad. Mommy feels sad today,” and you can ask your child for a hug and you can say, “You can ask mommy for a hug when you feel sad, too,” and really giving them space to feel OK about having feelings around that. Because it’s hard. Grief and loss is hard for all of us. And so for little kids, it’s so much harder understanding the permanence of that. 

00:50:11:09 – 00:50:41:25

Tomi: That’s great. And just to reiterate everyone, if you’re leaving questions or or anything like that in the comments, I can’t see them. So if you have questions in these last 10 minutes. Drop them in there in the question bubble for us. 

How do you introduce meditation or mindfulness to a toddler as a way to to manage stress? 

00:50:42:21 – 00:53:40:15

Jasmine: Toddler… Depends on the age of the toddler. So… And in some ways, I mean… And I think it also depends on the temperament of that time. I have friends who have toddlers who like, who will like.. I think my friend’s kid it like 15 months was like [takes deep breath] every time they felt anything was like serious, deep breathing it and doing a bunch of cool things. And that was super awesome. 

And then there’s other toddlers who are like, “No, not doing that. I’m not about doing that”. And that’s OK. I think the biggest way one for toddler is a lot of their regulation is co-regulation. So, I mean, all of this goes back to modeling again—they’re looking at what you’re doing. But it’s not about always giving the instruction. I think as parents again, we want to say, “Come here, take a deep breath, sit down with me, do this thing, listen to this music,” instead of, ‘Hey, we’re in a room together. I’mma take some deep breaths. 

I’m going to model what this looks like. I’m going to squeeze a pillow,” and then see if your child doesn’t follow naturally. So that’s one piece of it. I think starting that as an idea, though, you can start and talk about it. You can sit for a few minutes and go over like, “Hey, we’re going to sit quietly and take some breaths.” You can say that and see if your child’s able to do that. If they’re not, it’s fine. I don’t think you penalize them for it. But starting off one, I’ll say the first way you start off is having quiet time. So making sure there’s quiet time and every day that you have. Whether that’s them in their room, doing things by themselves, but having time for them to decompress and have time for their own thoughts. 

I think the second way in doing that, if you’re introducing like. You control your mind, you control your thoughts kind of thing is really reading to them and talking to them about story, right? How they’re able to think about things and really introducing them to this kind of imaginary world that they live in, so they’re able to create these things for themselves. And then, you know, bringing that to real life in the surface, like, oh, you know, we can refer to those characters, but also having activities. 

We also do have in our holiday toolkit, our activities are in a partnership with Little Renegade 

and they are mindful… I have this. I have their deck right in front of me, so I’m thinking about mindful kids and their decks start at actually 3+, so 3 and older, and that’s developmentally appropriate too… Three and older, it’s a bit easier to get kids to be a little more focused on that. Under 3, it’s more of you doing some co-regulation and sitting with them and breathing with them when able to. Giving them hugs, having them match your breathing as you’re hugging them. 

And then sometimes giving an instruction to do something before giving something else. So if you recognize your child’s escalated and they want whatever the thing is saying, “OK, let’s take a deep breath together and here you go” and giving them that thing immediately. So they’re just learning how to do those things with their bodies. 

00:53:41:27 – 00:54:37:14

Tomi: Love that. 

And then there was a question that someone emailed me. Let me, let me get my laptop, but again, if you have any any questions for Jasmine as we’re winding down, definitely press the the question bubble. But the question that they asked was how to unfriend your mom from Facebook and not feel bad about it. They don’t have a relationship at all. And it sounds like there’s some parentification that happened, like she feels like she’s the mother to her mother. 

But she feels like she’s using Facebook to spy on her and she’ll leave nice comments in the comment thread, but she doesn’t say it to her. So basically, she doesn’t trust her mom. She wants to confront her mother from Facebook, and she wants advice on how to not feel bad about it. 

00:54:39:11 – 00:57:08:23

Jasmine: OK, first way to not feel bad. Don’t feel bad. No, no, but no one’s really thinking about. I think this goes back to what we’ve been talking about taking care of yourself. You cannot take care of anyone else if you’re not feeling good in your own body. So this is something you need to feel like you’re the best version of who you are and how you’re engaging, then there is no shame or no problem with you doing that. I think, again, communication is really important. So saying, “Hey mom, don’t mind talking to you or you can text me from time to time. 

Don’t want us to be friends on social media,” and giving her another option so you don’t lose all contact. If that’s something you’re not interested in doing if you don’t want to. I mean, if you’re wanting to cut her off altogether, that’s one thing. But if if you’re not, then giving her a different option like, “Hey, text me when you want to talk. “I’d be happy to talk to you. I can send you pictures of my kids via text. But in terms of public platform, I’m not really interested in doing that. That’s not how I want to stay engaged. I either prefer to have a very personal relationship or” whatever other option you’re giving. I think the other piece of that is. 

I mean, I think I think we very much normalized social media as being real life, and I will say to everybody all the time, like this to me is not my real life. Like you being a friend on Facebook and you being present in my real life are two completely different things. And so if that is your belief and that’s how you understand it, to be explaining that again to your mom, like, “Hey, I need us to have the actual relationship. I really want us to engage in ways that are real. This doesn’t feel that way to me, and if we’re trying to build our relationship around trust and caring and all of these things, let’s talk in a different way, on a different medium and utilizing that.” And then again, I think it’s hard when you feel like, “Hey, I don’t want to make her feel bad,” but it’s not all or nothing. It’s giving an alternative as something else to be able to do or engage in. Again. And she has the right to say yes or no. So if she says, “No, I don’t want to be your… I don’t want to behave as your mom in real life.” Well, you gave her an opportunity. And now again, you have to take care of yourself. So saying, “All right, well, we’re not going to be friends on Facebook and look like we’re not going to engage in real life, either. I guess that’s the decision that’s being made right now,” and being OK with that being the case for now. Just making one decision doesn’t make it the forever decision, so you can still revisit that later. 

You can have her off of Facebook for a little while and then say, “You know what? I did kind of like her comments” and bring her back. So it’s not a forever decision, and you don’t have to treat it that way. You can do something now and change up a little later if that feels more comfortable. 

00:57:09:29 – 00:57:52:14

Tomi: I have so enjoyed this hour with you, I’m really looking forward to the to the next time we talk and again like. I really wish Little Otter had existed when I when I was a kid, and I think it’s so awesome that it exists now for kids. I’m just like, really really hopeful and happy about like this new generation of kids and parents that are coming up that are going to be supported and seen and like…. Move away from these generational patterns that haven’t really served us. Like we’re okay, but are we? 

00:57:52:29 – 00:58:41:26

Jasmine: I love that language… Like for things that have not served us, and I think that’s so important. I think, yeah, definitely doing things, catching things, talking to children about things when they’re small can help when they’re older to know how to have more resources, more tools to be able to deal with things that some of us as adults have a hard time and are trying to figure out now. And so really preparing them because we think about physical health and preparing them physically for things and making sure they get their physicals and all the things they’re supposed to get from the doctor and at school, we’ve prepared them educationally and all these other things. 

And then when we think about their mental health, their self-care, their self-love, their all these other pieces, how they’re feeling about anxiety, how they’re talking about their emotions… We forget that we have to develop that as well because they are all of these different parts of being in the world and we want to make sure they’re, they’re well able to do that. 

00:58:42:23 – 00:59:14:23

Tomi: Definitely. I just had one last question to ask you, because I just realize this is a very heteronormative thing that I’m about to say, but I’m so used to talking to women, moms and thinking of moms as being the people who like, lead the family’s culture. But like, how do you talk to your partner about changing these family patterns if they’re not as like into the idea of that or don’t have the same language or interests as you do about, you know, changing some of these generational patterns? 

00:59:15:18 – 01:00:01:07

Jasmine: So I think sometimes I think talking from your perspective is really important. I think sometimes and I think specifically when you’re talking about moms in very heteronormative space are like, “Well, our kids and the kids need…” Instead of saying, “Hey, I need… In order to feel like I’m doing a good job as a mom to get some support, and that means also getting Bobby some support too, so that we’re able to we’re able to change the way he’s engaging with things. You know, when I get upset, not always communicating with you in the best way. I don’t want him to see that and think that’s OK for him in the future to engage with his  partner in that way” or whatever things and really talk from your own perspective instead of talking through your child about something you really feel strongly about. 

01:00:02:17 – 01:00:09:05

Tomi: Yes, I love that. I was like, wait a second, I didn’t say anything about the dads! What are they doing? 

01:00:09:24 – 01:00:30:25

Jasmine: Yeah, we have a lot of dads that show up in these meetings and show up on their own even to engage with them. So I think. I mean, I I can’t say that that’s representative of all dads around the world, but I think it’s something that’s really…

Kind of a shift in something that had been really surprising to me that we had somebody that really gets involved in what’s going on. 

01:00:31:18 – 01:00:39:27

Tomi: That’s awesome. Well, Jasmine, thank you so much. Where can people find you and more information about Little Otter and the holiday stress kit that you guys are launching…?

01:00:40:02 – 01:01:01:21

Jasmine: So you can follow Little Otter on Instagram. We have Facebook. You can go to LittleOtterHealth com. That’s where you can find the toolkit and any other things about us. And I will be there too.

So if you have questions, if you want to, if you email like you can go to our web page and find all types of ways to reach out to everyone there. 

01:01:02:22 – 01:01:28:28

Tomi: Awesome. And if you’re just tuning in an immersive first half, this will be going live like in and four minutes of the feed. And then I’ll also be doing a caption version for our folks who need captions. So thank you again, Jasmine. Thank you. Little Otter and I’ll see all around you by. 

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