Welcome to the Us And Kids Podcast. We are glad you are here. I am Jan Talen, a wife, a mom, a grandma, and a marriage and family therapist. 

I wanted to let you know that the Us And Kids Communication Program is open again! It is an effective and efficient communication program. Build your skills for connecting you with your spouse and your kiddos - at the same time.  It's eight modules long. And has lots of professional support that leads you through great personal and relationship skills that will help to tone down the tensions and build up the connections. It's fun and it's practical.  Check it out on the website today.
 Welcome to the Us And Kids podcast!
2022 has arrived, and we are excited to enter into this new year with you. We are bringing you bi-weekly podcasts, every now and then an interview thrown in just for fun. And we are going to enjoy helping you be married forever while you enjoy parenting your kiddos together. 

As I wife, a mom, and grandma and a marriage and family therapist, I know like you, this is not easy, but it is worth it. So today I'd like to chat a little bit about the “Us” in the title, Us And Kids. A chat about marriage and how to make it stronger. And keep it that way, even when this crazy life of raising little ones is all around you. We're going to use the two letters to talk about marriage today.

First of all, the U and then the S to make up the us - most important unit within your family is the us,  is the marriage. And the U stands for the two of you together. But it also stands alone quite nicely.
Let's look at that letter: U. Whenever I see the U, (I've thought this since I was a kid), I've thought that looks like a smile, a big grin, and a smile is probably part of what helped the two of you who are now married and partnered, become friends. And then perhaps become more than friends.
That smile is a part of what will help you keep your friendship together forever…even when there's so much competing for your friendly time. We know that a small smile goes a long way. It takes people's defenses down a little bit. It helps people relax.
It often sends a message that says, I like you.
I'm in it with you. I enjoy you.
You are precious to me.
Send and use that U part of “us” with your smile often. Now we'll go the other way with that for just a minute, because we also know that smiling does take energy. And sometimes when there's so much scowl and worry inside of you, those muscles are holding the smiling muscles down.  We also know that when you use just the muscles to smile, regardless of how you feel, you will lift or shift your mood into a bit better space.  So, for example,  you're stirring macaroni and cheese -again… you're waiting at the microwave for your tea water. Just use your smiling muscles to make that U shape, not maybe a huge U shape, but just the little one. As you use smile muscles, you also fight off depression and anxiety, depression, and anxiety.  These emotions are triggered more powerfully when we scowl and frown.

Serious tense muscles are used all through your face. When you're clenching your teeth, sort of furrowing your brow, that sends messages to the brain, that there's things to be really worried about. If you need to figure those things out and you want to think, use the opposite muscles and smile.
It's not really about whether or not you feel like smiling.  This is just a change in the muscles that you're using. Because a smile does help us relax, which in turn opens up those brain pathways to help us think.
When you're too overwhelmed by those perceived needs and demands of kiddos or even of your spouse, but you want to stay as a us unit, you and your spouse together,  then take a few seconds - maybe in your bedroom, maybe in the garage, maybe in the bathroom, take a few deep breaths and stretch those face muscles into a smile. Breathe out as you do, and your emotions are going to settle down a notch or two, your creativity and capacity for calm will just add up maybe a point or two, but just enough to get you over the edge.

And then you can go back and rejoin the chaos with a bit lighter of a heart, which helps us send in a lighter tone of voice and a lighter attitude.
And then you can be proud of your own U -  the word you Y O U. So start with that U shape, which is a smile.And now let's talk about how U can also sound like the pronoun you.

A strong marriage is in part when there is a steady and strong you. You, as an individual, the more you know who you are, the more you are pleased with who you are, the more you grow the skills to continue to help yourself grow and mature,the more you will be able to hold yourself steady when under pressure and tension.

You will be able to grow and change reasonably well, because there's always growth. You know, you're parenting here, living with another human being who is changing, always on the go and helping to hold you. The you, yourself steady is important to creating the, U the us in your marriage. In the  Us And Kids Communication Program, we'll coach you through how to build these skills in module two.  It's called Managing the Emotional Me.  And if you want to check that out, give yourself a boost, get a little bit of help in growing this personal part of you.

Third. This U, that creates a smile that takes care of the, you personally can also stand for understanding.

Understanding is this mix of empathy for others, yourself, your spouse, your kiddos. . It's a mix of this empathy and objectivity, the ability to grasp and know the facts that are actually facts, not assumed facts, but actual truth and the nuances to those facts to understand what's happening in another person's world, as well as the broader world around them.

So I said those words sort of fast, but we had to think about it for a minute. Understanding is a mix of empathy for yourself and others, as well as objectivity grasping the facts and the nuances, and then using that empathy and nuance in order to respond in a way that says “I care.” In a way that says, “I can see that this is the best path forward.”

So when I watch my spouse come into the house and sort of dump his briefcase on the floor and sort of pause, he's not really coming in and putting his breakfast dishes on the counter, like he usually does. I might have a little bit of, huh? I wonder what's going on?
What else do we do? And then I can think about a case that he was trying to close, or I knew there was an office meeting today and maybe that didn't go so well and I give room to wonder, and gather more information before I jump to conclusions.

So I'm looking for the facts and I'm listening to the nuances about what might be happening for him as he walks in the door. And as I do that, now I can understand why he's not all excited about the things that I got in the mail today. )We're recording this around Christmas and Amazon and other people are delivering quite rapidly to my house.  So Fun!)
I can pause my understanding of what's in my world and think, “Should I pause that for a minute and care about what's in his, as I work to understand?”

And fourthly, when we think about the letter U, you could see it for unity.  This is being in genuine agreement with desires, with dreams and directions.

When you're in unity, when you're connected with each other in this way, it's easier to work together. It's easier to sacrificially support and to move towards mutual goals when there's unity. And in our Us And Kids Program, we will help you learn how to discern your individual desires and dreams, but also your shared desires and dreams for your marriage and for your family.

And then we're going to give you and help you learn the eight necessary skills to help you build those dreams and desires into a really fun reality. So just like you need the letter, U to create the word us, we need the letter U to build good  fun. Fun stands for fulfilling, unlimited in conversation and experiences, and naturally good  relationship.

The real us is fun.

But wait, isn't just the letter. U it's also the letter S.
I've written the letter S -  I've always thought this since I was a little kid - When I write it, it has a feeling of movement and of smoothness. I remember just making the S’s all the way down the page. I just liked making those swirly little moves.

And also I loved how, when you add an S onto another word, it multiplies them and makes them more fun. Like, is it fun to have M and M or isn’t MMs far more fun? Would you like a shoe? Do you like shoes? They're more fun. If there are two. Would you like a cookie or would you like cookies? See what I mean?  Would you like a hug or would you like something a bit more? Our list can go on and on.
And so when I was young, I loved making S’s all the way down the page.  But as I got older I also realized that the extra “s” wasn’t always so great.  Like I don’t really like to do the dishes.  We have to pay bills. There are more chores to do. Those S's don't sound nearly as good, except for when the dishes are clean, the bills are paid, the chores are done. Then those S's sound like accomplishment to get those things done.

When I think of words that start with S I often think of strong and steady. Let's talk about strong first. When the interconnected pieces of my body work together well, I feel strong. When I help a kiddo build a Lego thing and all pieces hold together, the design is stronger. There was a time when my arm was not nicely connected to my shoulder. I couldn't do things as easily or efficiently until that arm and all the ligaments attached to it, all the things underneath it were re-connected to my bone. My skin slowly tightened up and my arm stayed back to my body and did normal arm things again.
You've helped kiddos, I am sure, try to move a Lego piece that is not having enough connecting pieces. And so it keeps falling apart and they're just frustrated. The piece isn't built strong enough, there aren't enough connection points to make it so that it holds together. Should you try to move it? Not without worrying about tears as it falls apart. 

You see, strong is when the pieces are connected snugly together and when they can stay together, even when under pressure or when there's quick movement. And that is part of what makes a good us, when U are unified the U, and when you are strong, when you are connected, stay connected under pressure.

We know that having kiddos around is one of the toughest things that can come into a marriage. Now, nobody really talks about that, except for us therapists who put it in the same category as a trauma - that's right. We call having babies a trauma, not because traumas are always bad, but because it pulls on so many coping skills and forces us to use skills we didn't know.
We had both as an individual and as an Us.  We have to learn how to cooperate in different ways. We have to step up to chores and tasks we never had to do before. We have to learn how to be more gracious and more generous, less time oriented. And yet more time conscious -  like when did that little one eat last or poop or sleep, but less consumed with their own personal time sense.

People make it through trauma. Moms and dads make it through the trauma of having a new little one in their house by growing new skills. This is personally the U in the Us And Kids.
And it's also growing new skills with the S - building U together, strong and steady. This takes practice.
There are times when postpartum depression and anxiety or other struggles will keep both of you from really adjusting nicely to all the new and all the crazy things that happen when you add a new little one. 

If our coping skills don't catch up with the needs and the pressures of all those changes, then cracks and little fissures of being discontented, disconnected, begin to see into the relationship. Just little places here and there, but they set it up for the seeds, not the actions, but the little baby, baby thoughts and worries about divorce.

I'm not going to overdramatize S’s. I just want you to have it as good information so that you can assess how U, you and unity are doing together. And if you need a bit of help, we'll be sure that you are checking out the Us And Kids Communication Program, because it will help you fight off those ugly, hopeless and overwhelming thoughts that you can't keep the U, your family of “us and kids.”

Not the program, but you and your family - United and connected. There's another S here. There's an S - being strong, staying connected with each other. The other S would stand for stability, being strong.
But not being stable is not really helpful. Unstable might mean being really moody, due to lack of good food or water or sleep, but also might just be messed up because of hormones or grief and loss that we feel when a new little one takes over so much of life.  We can hardly remember what life pre-kids was even like in behaviors, but also in those emotions and in those connections with our spouse.

It's where our marriage connection doesn't feel as stable. It doesn't feel as strong. Some instability and messiness is normal when we are first adjusting to what's new -  new baby, new house, new job, new schedules, and this is where, and when we help each other.  Non-judgment, encouraging and laughing because otherwise you'd all just cry.Then maybe crying is fine too. 

But as you practice by listening well, speaking clearly and kindly, and using your touch, your eye contact here, gentle touches in tones, you will notice that the us, the unified us, the strong us, will start to reappear feeling - like your old self, more stable, more confident, more sure of yourself.

And as you feel stronger together, you will again be more reassured that together you are reliable, you are forgivable and you are flexible. Adjusting to the changes that us, a married unit has to make when kiddos are added. And so we become strong. We grow strength by being steady.
Steady means dependable and truthful. It means keeping the desires and the dreams we've had in the U part of UsAnd Kids in front of us, even when it's tough.
Steady has focus. It has determination, courage, and encouragement in it for starting.
So as you think about what you want your marriage to be, what you want your “US” to be in 2022, we encourage you to actually think about it and talk about it too.

And when you want help up leveling your marriage, while you have your kiddos around, we are here for you. The Us And Kids Communication Program is designed to be effective and efficient because in it you'll learn how to improve your marriage communication.  You will also learn how to improve your kiddo communication with kids of any age using the same skills, just applying them differently.

We'll help you figure out what your dreams and your desires are for your marriage and your family. Just what yours are individually, but also have to blend them with your spouse’s and then we'll help you learn those eight necessary key communication skills that we use to build sincere, kind, connected conversations with your spouses and with your kids.

You see each of these skills build on each other, but they also interweave with each other. So you can choose a mixture of them to help you achieve the relationship you want in the moment and the long haul for your kids and for your marriage.
My prayer and my wish for you as you start this new year is to take the energy, to check out the Us And Kids Communication Program and build your marriage in a way that is more United and more Strong.

Build up your  “US” in 2022.
Talk to you later. Bye-bye.


Listen to Episode 110 Here »