Tag Archive for community

Children Thrive Under These 4 Parenting Practices

Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology at the University of Notre Dame, suggests children thrive in an environment shaped by certain parenting practices (Learn More Here). Children who grow up in that environment become adults who experience less depression and anxiety, display a greater ability to take another person’s perspective, and exhibit an orientation toward compassion. In other words, these parenting practices not only help a person thrive in childhood, they also nurture mature adults who contribute to a healthy community that will provide a nurturing environment for the next generation of children. What are these crucial parenting behaviors?

  • A father helps his daughter on the playgroundResponsiveness. Responsive parents become students of their children. They learn about, and become sensitive to, their children’s cues and signals. They recognize their children’s emerging emotions and respond to the underlying need before they reach a disquieting level of stress. Research suggests this level of parental responsiveness contributes to greater empathy and a greater ability to meet their personal needs and anxieties. Responsiveness also nurtures a positive self-concept, decreasing the chances of experiencing depression.
  • Affectionate Touch. Touch helps soothe and calm children, nurturing their ability to soothe themselves. Touch also expresses love, building a sense of “lovability,” self-worth, and competence. Affectionate, loving touch helps children develop healthy personal boundaries that promote safety as well. Touch requires a parent’s physical presence…and children need lots of touch. So, spend lots of time with your children and fill it with loving touch.
  • Play. Free and imaginative play with parents and other loving community members benefits children. Play is interactive, enhancing social skills. Free play, unlike adult supervised play, requires negotiation and compromise, building healthy conflict resolution skills. Imaginative play also builds perspective taking which is so important to empathy and compassion. In addition, play provides the opportunity to create social supports. Play helps children “stand a head taller than themselves” (Read Make Your Child a Head Taller than Himself).
  • Community of Affectionate Caregivers. It’s true: It really does take a village to raise a child. We need our primary caregivers—our mother and father. Still, a community of affectionate people who engage in loving interactions and provide loving guidance empowers a parent to become even more responsive and affectionate. The loving community provides support in times of physical and emotional distress as well as a greater sense of security and trust. Healthy community nurtures empathy and compassion, kindness, and even a greater sense of justice.

When parents implement these four practices, children thrive. They mature into responsible adults who support a healthy community which, in turn, encourages parents who implement these four basic practices with a new generation of children. In other words, implementing these four parenting practices can initiate a revolution of growing health in our communities. Sounds like a great reason to start using these parenting practices today.

Plug In for Family Happiness

We need to plug in to build family happiness. No, I do not mean plug in the TV or the internet. Plugging in to technology won’t bring greater family happiness. In fact, too much technology tends to distract us from family happiness. In order to increase family happiness, we need to plug in to relationships. Positive relationships give us our greatest joy. They enhance our immune system and increase ourFamilies life expectancy. In fact, positive relationships have the same level of health benefit as quitting smoking. Good relationships make us happier, healthier, and stronger. So, if you want a happy family, build stronger relationships within your family and with those outside your family. Here are some practical tips to help you do this.

  • Invest in building a positive relationship with your spouse and children. This investment will demand your time. Invest time in playing with your family. Enjoy doing work together in the yard or house. Volunteer together. Find out what activities your spouse and children enjoy then engage in that activity with them. If they enjoy jogging, take up jogging. Be present at their activities and in their daily life.
  • Participate in activities with another family. Go on a picnic with another family. Have a family over for dinner. Get together for a game night with other families. Go camping with other families. Have fun together. When you engage in activities with other families you build relationships with people in similar circumstances. As a result, you can offer mutual support and encouragement. Other families can provide you with a “reality check” when you feel like the kids are driving you “crazy.” You also find other trusted adults that your children might go to for advice when they don’t come to you. Family friends build family happiness and security.
  • Go on a double date. Studies have shown that “double dating” enhances intimacy. Those who participated in double dates found their attraction to their own spouse grow stronger. In addition, other couples might model desirable behavior for us to emulate or undesirable behavior to avoid. Either way, befriending another couple tends to strengthen our marriages and add joy to our lives. A happy marriage contributes to a happy family. So go on a double date for the sake of your family’s happiness.
  • Get involved in a community with a higher purpose, like church. Children who attended church with their family are more likely to see expressions of love and affection. Parents are more likely to know their children’s social network when they attend church as a family. In addition, involvement in a community creates the opportunity for mutual support and encouragement. Other parents can share their experience of raising children and support us in our efforts to raise healthy children. Creating friendships in a larger community adds support, encouragement, accountability, and positive experiences to family life. All this adds up to a happier family.

“Thin Places” at Family Camp-2014

My family and I just returned home from Family Camp at Camp Christian. We go every year…and every year we enjoy great fellowship of other families, moving worship, and wonderful teaching. This year, Rob Grandi was the speaker. He spoke of family as the “most important place on earth.” In one of Rob’s messages, he spoke of “thin places,” places where heaven comes close to earth. He noted that the temple, with the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of familysunheartHolies, is a thin place…a place where God and heaven come close to earth. The manger where Jesus lay after His birth was a “thin place” where angels gathered near the earth to watch the Son of God become man. Family Camp seems a “thin place” to me. God draws near as we draw together to celebrate family and worship Him.  I agree with Rob that families, especially Christian families, are “thin places.” In Christian families, God and heaven come near to earth. God bridge the gap from heaven to earth in order to commune with our families, making our families a “thin place.” The more we, as parents, commune with God and draw near to Him, the closer heaven comes to our family…and the more our family becomes a little taste of heaven, a communion with God, a “thin place.” That is a beautiful image of what we desire our families to become and I plan to strive harder to narrow that “thin place” even more.

I am always impressed with the generations that gather together at the “thin place” of Family Camp. Couples who have already “launched” their children mingle with parents of newborns and everyone in between. I love to watch the interaction between generations.  Parents of young children learn they can survive (even thrive and enjoy) the time of active toddlerhood and busy teens as they hear grandparents describe the joys of watching their children start their own families.  Couples whose children have “left the roost” enjoy interaction with youth. Wisdom and energy is shared between the generations. I find great joy in seeing a young child feel comfortable enough to worship between a family member and an adult that is not biological family, to receive love and affection from both, to share conversation and fun with both. It reminds me that it really does take a village to raise a family…and our village is one big family, with God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother. Together, we draw near to God and one another. We encourage, build up, guide, and support one another through the joys and trials of life. (Sounds like a “thin place” doesn’t it?)  For that, I am most thankful.

Thanks to the Jones’s for another great weekend of Family Camp…and thanks to all who volunteered and all who attended to make is such a beautiful weekend. I’m already looking forward to next year at Family Camp!

It Takes a Village…Yeah, But How?

“It takes a village to raise a child.” I know that sounds overused and somewhat trite, but it really does take a village to raise a child. Don’t get me wrong, children desperately need their family. The healthier our families, the easier it is to raise our children. No doubt family has the primary place in raising children. Still, the connections our children have with those outside the nuclear family have a tremendous impact on them. When parents encourage their children to build healthy connections outside their immediate family, children benefit. Of course we don’t want our children to develop just any old connections; we want to guide them toward healthy connections. We do that by becoming involved in various aspects of the community as a family. Then, as children mature, they can take those involvements as their own. Here are four connections that can benefit our children.
     ·         Connections with extended family can have a positive influence on our children. Older cousins, aunts, and uncles can serve as role models. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles can reinforce various values. Grandparents, in particular, can play a special role in reinforcing values. Many times our children will hear values voiced by the extended family more easily than they hear the same values voiced by us.

·         Connections with community groups such as church, school, or sports. Coaches can help reinforce values and give our children another “ear” to help them solve various difficulties. Teachers can also serve to encourage our children and promote maturity. Church involvement has many benefits. In a church community, children can find adults who encourage and support, elderly who listen and give wisdom, and peers who want to live by similar values. Church also provide opportunities to engage in “responsible” behavior such as watching and teaching younger children, mission trips, camp opportunities, and volunteer opportunities. The church can provide all of this as well as teaching Christian values. Each of these connections can help our children grow more confident and mature. 

·         Connections with more than one circle of friends. This may take some guidance from you, but the benefit is great. Encourage your children to avoid a single clique and become involved with peers from several groups. This may mean becoming involved peers from several different groups at school or becoming involved with peers from church, scouting, school, and community.

·         Connections with other parents. Sometimes our children just need an adult other than their parent to talk to. They need an adult who understands children, but does not have the heavy emotional investment in our children that we do. From this “other parent” our children can get an objective, third party opinion. And, if we have laid the groundwork early in our children’s life, this “third party” will support similar values and ideas as we do.

Having these four connections outside of the nuclear family will help teens gain a sense of connection and belonging. Ironically, this sense of connection and belonging will help them grow more independent. It will also help them mature and grow with a desire to abide by the values of their community…which, by the way, is your community too!

Book Review: Generation to Generation

Family is the ideal environment in which to teach a child right from wrong and the value of relationship. Unfortunately, many families seem to abdicate this responsibility to churches, schools, and various clubs. Wayne Rice, youth worker, ministry consultant, and parent, calls families back to their role as leader in teaching values to our children. In Generation to Generation, he challenges parents to accept their unique position as spiritual leaders in their family, restoring their role as spiritual guide for their children. The material in the book was originally designed for a workshop presented by HomeWord, making it fast paced and easily digested.I appreciate several key aspects of this book. First, the author emphasizes the unique role and position of parents to “train up their child.” No other person or institution carries the same relationship, has the same invested interest, or spends the same time with a child as that child’s parents. Parents stand in a unique position, with unprecedented opportunities, to train their children in a manner no one else can even compare. Taking advantage of this opportunity demands that parents make a long-term commitment to connect with their family. Although this investment takes time and effort, the dividends are compelling and eternal–you don’t want to miss out on the results of this investment.

Generation to Generation offers a look at potential long-term family goals as well practical ways to connect with your children on a daily basis. This book also includes an excellent chapter on communicating family values to your children. Throughout Generation to Generation, Mr. Rice offers dozens of practical ways to connect with your children and instill family values into their lives. Overall, any parent who desires to raise children who “know and love God” will find this book an excellent and practical addition to their parenting toolbox, one they will constantly pull out to reference and use.


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The Avengers, Jesus, & Family

What do the Avengers, Jesus, and family have in common? Two things. First, they take action…lots of action. What would the Avengers be without action? They are, after all, “action heroes.” When the Avengers were not involved in action, the enemy seemed to gain strength. They had to take action in order to weaken and destroy the enemy. Jesus was also a man of action. He took the initiative to come to earth and serve. He was actively involved in the creation of the world and He actively engaged all spheres of life during His human journey on earth. Now, He remains actively involved in the world through His Holy Spirit. I recently read Brennan Manning’s A Glimpse of Jesus. In one chapter, Manning states that Jesus “calls us not to fear but to action. Procrastination only prolongs self-hatred.” Jesus was, and is, a Man of great action. 
 
Second thing the Avengers and Jesus have in common? They do not act alone. Instead, they act “in one accord.” The Avengers had to “act in one accord” with one another in order to have success. They could not just look out for their own personal interests and neglect everyone else. That led to arguing, one-upmanship, suspicions, group weakness, and vulnerability. They needed one another; they needed to work together in order to accomplish the goal set before them. Jesus did not act alone either. He acted in accordance with His Father. He did what His Father was doing, said was His Father was saying, and went where His Father directed. Jesus also picked 12 men to work with Him during His earthly ministry. These 12 men helped feed the five thousand, prepare the upper room, and even proclaim the kingdom of God. Jesus still wants His people to “act in one accord” with Him and one another. We are told to “not look out for our own personal interests but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4). We are to encourage one another, lift one another up, comfort one another and admonish one another. We are to act together.
 
The Avengers and Jesus are both people of action. They had to work together to find success. What does that have to do with the family? Do I need to say it? I can’t hold back…I have to say it. Creating an intentional family demands that we take action and that we “act in one accord.” If we want our families to grow healthier and more intimate, we need to take action. Start doing the work to create a healthier family today. Take action. Do not procrastinate…that could lead to disaster, feelings of insecurity, and even self-hatred. Do not get sidetracked and distracted from action by dwelling on disagreements and petty jealousies…that will surely lead to disaster. Instead, start doing the little things that bring health to a family. Become a person of action in your family today. Initiate the action of encouraging family members, saying “thank-you” to family members, and engaging in courteous behaviors like holding a door open or getting a family member a drink.
 
And, while you are taking action, remember that healthy families act together. They do not just look out for their own personal interests–that leads to arguments, one-upmanship, suspicions, family weakness, and vulnerability. Instead, look out for the interests of other family members. Give up that last cookie and let another family member have it. Give up fighting to be “first in the shower” and let your brother go first. Volunteer to clear the table or wash the dishes or help with the laundry or…well, you know. The list of actions you can take to strengthen your family goes on. Reach out in love to actively support, encourage, comfort, and forgive one another. The actions of love done in “one accord” will take your family to new heights of intimacy and joy. Start today!

The 5-Fold Mission of Parents

Parents, your mission should you choose to accept it, is to prepare the way for your children as they mature. This mission will involve the following steps.
     ·         Explore the community in which you choose to raise your children. Identify your allies and locate the safe areas in your neighborhood. Your allies can support the instruction you provide your children and offer discipline that will promote your children’s maturing character. The safe spots in your neighborhood can nurture your child and further promote the values you want to become central to your child’s life. Safe spots and allies in your community may include clubs, sporting activities, coaches, church groups, youth leaders, etc. Visit these areas and befriend these allies ahead of your children. “Scope them out.” Make sure they truly are what they appear to be—no hidden agendas or hurtful ideas hidden under a beautiful facade.

·         Identify those areas in your community that might poison your child. These areas appear safe enough to the innocent eyes of children…they may even appear inviting, appealing, or enticing. However, the experienced adult recognizes these attractive activities and influences as poisonous flowers that threaten our children’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Teach your children to look beyond the attractive flower to identify the deadly lies and influences they hide—the hidden agendas, the hurtful designs, the life-threatening lies. Teach them the truth to counteract the poison offered. Provide them with the unconditional love and solid acceptance at home that will empower them to turn away from these enticing poisons in the community.

·         Identify the potential players in the neighborhood. Every neighborhood has those people who prey on the innocent and naïve. Teach your children how to protect themselves from these players. Teach them to travel with their allies, finding safety in numbers. Teach them to think before they act and to discern consequences before follow. Listen closely to your children. Lovingly problem-solve with them when they face difficult circumstances and people.

·         Develop additional safety zones in your community and in your children’s life. Nurture relationships with adults who can provide positive influences. Take time to know your children’s friends and promote their growth in mature character. Support the efforts of other adults, parents, and groups in your community that want to raise a strong moral generation of young people.

·         One more task in this mission…pray for your children. You cannot follow your children into every potentially dangerous situation or guide them through every experience they encounter in life. You would not even want to. They need time to learn on their own…to get lost and find their way out, to fail and recover, to slip and get back up. They need the opportunities to learn when to ask for help and the humbly experience of doing so. In the midst of all this, you can pray for your children. Ask God to protect them, guide them, nudge them when they stray, and quickly lift them up when they fall. Make them the subject of your prayers multiple times a day. 
 

Parents, this is your mission should you choose to accept it. Your effort in this mission will impact the development of your child and ultimately influence your level of joy as a parent. This message will not self-destruct in 10 seconds, but continue on throughout the life of your children. Good luck, Parent…and God bless.

5 Tips for the Dirtiest Job of Parenting

I love to watch “Dirty Jobs” with Mike Rowe. “Dirty Jobs” gives us a glimpse of dirty jobs that most of us never knew existed and would avoid if possible, even though they contribute to our life. Parenting involves some dirty jobs—jobs like changing diapers after an “especially explosive episode” or cleaning a toddler after he eats his first cupcake. I recall a particularly dirty episode in parenting my daughter. I was holding my daughter over my head, pretending to make her fly, when she threw up…right into my open mouth. These are dirty jobs. There is one parenting job, however, that will most likely not make the “Dirty Job” cut. This dirty job may well be the most difficult and arduous job of all. I am talking about the job of letting our children go.  It begins early in life, as early as their first steps. Remember when you started to help your 3-year-old zip up their coat and they looked you straight in the eye to say, “I do!” Your child was telling you to “let go” even then. The steps we take in the process of letting go only grow larger as our children get older. From watching our children leave our side to attend first grade…to trusting them to resolve simple conflicts without our input… to dropping them off at college, letting go grows more demanding as our children mature. 
 
Letting go is a positive parenting goal though. We instinctively teach our children to make decisions independent of peer pressure. We encourage them to pursue independent interests and goals. We cautiously step back and allow them to independently learn from their mistakes. We even admire their independence, most of the time. When their independent decision seems contrary to our individual goals, we may unjustifiably become upset. When they decide to pursue some career outside of our dream for them, we mistakenly question their independent wisdom. When they want to go out with friends rather than us, we wrongly perceive it as personal rejection. Perhaps most difficult of all, when we see their independent decisions leading to simple, but painful, consequences, we jump in to save them, rather than trust them to learn, from their mistakes. This “letting go” really is a “dirty job;” but, there are some basic skills that can help make it a little easier.
     1.      Put aside your dreams and expectations. Look at your children; study them to find their “natural bent,” their natural talent, personality, and ability. Nurture those unique attributes. Take the time to step into their world of interests and develop an appreciation for those interests. The more you know your children, the more comfortable you will feel “letting them go.”

2.      Connect your children with other adults–youth leaders, teachers, mentors, or extended family. Step back and allow these adults to nurture your children’s talent in ways you never could. These adults will also be able to tell your children things that they will not hear from you. You will find your children coming home excited about something a teacher told them while you think, “I told you that 2 months ago.” Sometimes, parents become jealous of the influence other adults have with their children. After all, “I used to have that influence.” Remember, you still do have that influence. It may seem as though your children no longer listen to you, but they do. You will hear other adults talking about what your child said and you will recognize your words coming from your child’s mouth. So, rather than become jealous, be grateful that there are other positive influences in your child’s life. Take time to thank them personally.

3.      Provide your children opportunities to expand their independence. Let them make choices. When they are young teens, let them participate in decision like which night will be family night and which night they can spend with friends. Let them choose whether to watch a movie with you or with friends. Encourage them to seek the advice of a mentor in addition to input from you. Allow them to take sponsored trips with trusted groups such as those at your church, school, scouting organization, etc. Encourage their involvement in positive activities outside of your presence. As they show wisdom and maturity in those decisions and actions, allow them more opportunities.

4.      Allow your child to have time independent of family. This time will increase with age. A toddler needs constant supervision. However, as children mature, they make more independent decisions, engage in more peer related activities, and define their individual life more clearly. They will spend less time with family and more time in pursuit of their individual lives. A parent’s role changes from one of control to influence. In order to have influence, we must give up control.

5.      Give up control and pick up trust. Trust the work you did as a parent. Trust that you have instilled positive values and decision-making skills in your child. Trust that they have experienced your love and will always feel safe to return to that love when they need to. Trust that God will bring people into their lives who will continue to provide a positive influence to them. Trust your children’s growing level of wisdom and maturity, nurtured by childhood years of loving discipline and instruction from you.
 
By the time our children leave for college, they need the skills to independently manage their decisions, time, and relationships. They begin growing toward that independence from the moment they learn to walk. Join them in the process. Work toward the goal of independence. It’s a “dirty job,” but someone has to do it.

Slaying the Monsters in Your Child’s Life

Every day our children battle dragons and other mythical monsters. Boggarts, shape-shifters that assume the form of a child’s greatest fears and insecurities, dance in your children’s minds. They tower over your children, taking the form of personal failure, overwhelming schedules, rejecting peers, family instability, financial woes, or even death of a friend. Boggarts appear larger than life. They leave a child feeling inadequate and unable to deal with the towering fear that has taken shape in his or her mind.
 
Your child may also battle the giant bully monster. This giant monster towers over a child with bulging muscles, red anger-filled eyes, a forked tongue of ridicule and threats, and fists that can pulverize your child’s personal strength. Your child may encounter the giant bully monster in the community, in school, or on-line. This monster threatens your child’s confidence and can send them reeling into the legendary pit of emotional darkness, depression, and despair.
 
The most frightening monster of all may live right in your own home. That’s right…the two-headed-fighting-parents-monster can appear right in your living room and wreak havoc in your family’s castle. Although connected to the same body, the two heads of this monster agree on nothing. They constantly fight, call one another names, and verbally abuse each other. Because this monster resides in the home, it creates an atmosphere of insecurity for your child. As long as the two heads continue to yell, scream, and argue, your child will never feel safe. In addition, their loyalty to both heads will tear them apart, potentially leaving their heart torn to shreds.
 
Parents can help children slay these monsters. They serve as the protector and provider, the knight in shining armor rescuing their children from these monsters…even as they attack. How do we slay the monsters in our children’s lives? Here are three strategies that other parent-knights have found effective.
     ·         Remain present in your children’s lives. Stand with them…be physically, verbally, and emotionally present in their lives. Let them see you in the community, in the school, and in the home. Make your presence known to them in their technology. Text them. Email them. Call them. Friend them on Facebook. Establish a precedent from the very beginning that you, as a parent, have access to their Facebook, phone, and any other technological device so you can monitor what happens there. Assure them that you monitor these devices for their protection. Even offer examples of people who have encountered the giant bully monster and boggarts on-line. You are there to protect them from those monsters, even on-line. Let your children know they do not have to face any monster in their life alone. You are always ready to help!
     ·         Tame the two-headed-fighting-parents monster. Work with your spouse (the other head) to resolve arguments as they arise. Let your children witness the resolution in your spoken apologies and affectionate interactions with one another. If your children witnessed the two-headed-fighting-parents monster at its worst, you might even explain to them how you resolved the argument and assure them that you love each other. Children grow best when they know their parents have a stable, loving relationship. Allow them to witness your love for one another in how you speak to, touch, and support one another. If you experience significant trouble taming the two-headed-fighting-parents monster, seek counseling. Don’t wait until both heads are beaten and abused. By that time, your child is feeling the devastation of the battle. Get help. Learn how to resolve your differences and tame the two-headed-fighting-parents monster.
     ·         Spend time talking with your children so you can learn about the boggarts they live with, the fears and insecurities that take shape in their mind. Be open to hear about these fears. Listen closely to understand the fear. Accept that this fear is a real concern for your child, not just some childish fantasy they’ll get over. Acknowledge the bravery they exhibit in facing their fears. Encourage them by helping them recall other times they have successfully overcome fears. And, problem-solve with them. This may include planning ahead, breaking the boggart into smaller parts and tackling one issue at a time, identifying more resources, or any number of other solutions. By listening, acknowledging, encouraging, and problem-solving, you teach your child the skills necessary to slay any boggarts that arise in their life.
 
As you help slay the monsters in your children’s lives, they will be able to rest and relax in your home. They will rest in the assurance that you, their protector and provider, have made their home a safe haven in which they can find peace.

Promoting Greatness in the Family

Today is Martin Luther King Day. I love so much of what Martin Luther King said. I read this quote from MLK on the MLK Day of Service website: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'” What a tremendous question. What are you doing for others? What are you doing for those in your family? What are you doing for those outside your family?
 
Today is the MLK Day of Service, the “only federal holiday observed as a national day of service- a ‘day on, not a day off.'” It offers people from all walks of life to “answer Dr. King’s challenge to do something for others” (Click here for more info). 
 
This would be a good day to find a way to serve others as a family. After all, where do people learn to serve? In the home. Loving families encourage helping one another and nurture service to those in the home and those in the community. Families that serve together find a level of happiness and intimacy that cannot be found when everyone looks out for themselves. It is in service that we find lasting happiness. Moreover, families promote true greatness when parents model and encourage service. After all, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Jesus Christ); and, “everybody can be great because everybody can serve” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). Greatness comes through service…and, everybody can serve. We can teach our children to serve at any age; and, in doing so, we promote greatness in their character. So, what will you do for the MLK Day of Service? How will you promote greatness in your family? Here are a few ideas:
     ·         Do a chore for another family member.
     ·         Offer to do some work for a neighbor.
     ·         Volunteer at a place like the Ronald McDonald House, Kane Hospital, or a local nursing home.
     ·         Volunteer to clean the house for a shut-in who is known at your church.
     ·         Bake cookies and deliver them to the nurses at a local hospital.
     ·         Take a walk through your neighborhood and pick up litter.
     ·         Shovel the driveway for an elderly person in your neighborhood.
     ·         Share your ideas in the comment section below.
 
Enjoy your call to greatness as you serve one another. Please share your additional ideas, thoughts, and experiences in the comment section below.
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