Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Week of July 10-15, 2011

Aha! Parents and Teens Explore How to Be Close and Free

Rendy Freedman & Jennifer Freed

Parenting teenagers is challenging under the best of circumstances, and staying close while doing it is an art form. How do parents set limits, offer guidance, communicate effectively, and still find a way to enjoy their ever-changing teen? How do parents maintain their own joy and ease while caring for the endless needs of their children? How do teens and parents learn from one another non-defensively? The Aha! workshop will create an opportunity for parents and teens to explore the delicate and crucial balance between being buddies and being an inspiring adult and role model.

Participants will:

• Learn about how to appreciate one another’s values and perspectives

• Focus on the dynamic and vital passions of adulthood and adolescence

• Experience exercises that emphasize quality contact between parents and teens

• Discover the art of play again, between the generations

• Explore the tenets of social and emotional intelligence and how they apply to family life

• Share the secrets of staying close through the teen years

The leaders will guide participants through a highly tested and successful program of interactive and creative exercises which will highlight the strengths of the parent/teen bond and offer practical and lasting skills to help navigate the colorful and compelling development of the family during the teen years. This is a precious gift for parents and teens who want to affirm and learn how to be joyously and authentically connected. The workshop is open to teens ages 13–19 and their parents.

CEUs available for MFTs and LCSWs.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Speaking of Stories

Just saw five actors perform stories at the Center Stage Theater. The spoken word is so glorious without fanfare or
glossification. Just the beautiful meditation on the voice and the writer's words. So retro, so peaceful, so Sunday good.


I can recall the first time my children witnessed me paying it forward while in the Starbucks drive through lane. I glanced in my rear view and saw someone who looked rather spent – and it was only eight in the morning. “I’m buying her coffee,” I told my girls, and they looked at me as though I had two heads. Who is she? they wanted to know, craning their necks to look behind us. Why are you doing it? I attempted to explain the pay it forward idea – that you do something good for someone to help them out without expecting anything kind in return. For days they talked about the lady in Starbucks.

Fast forward a year or so and my oldest daughter and I were walking out of a grocery store in California. A homeless man stood outside, in the shade, to escape the heat. We’d just purchased a package of cookies, which my daughter held on to as though they were a life preserver she needed for rough waters. “Let’s give him one of your cookies,” I said. “He might enjoy that.” My daughter looked at me as though I, well, had two heads; then she smiled, took one out, and gave it to me to hand to the man. To this day, three years later, she still talks about this.

I’ve tried to teach my children to do good for others when there is no ‘reward’ attached – nothing monetary, no gifts, no tangibles. I want them to learn the concept of being good to others, and how that can make you feel. We try to use this concept each day in our home with chores. We do them because it helps the family as a whole. We try to do this by using kind words, by adopting a child at Christmas, by giving our gently used items to a shelter for women and abused children.

So when the tsunami struck Japan, I decided to work with them on a goal that we could set for raising money to send to Red Cross – money that could be used for those that had lost everything they’d had in life. The catch this time – I wanted them to be in charge of what it is they want to do.

I love what Dr. Susan Kuczmarski, Ed.D. and author of the book “The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go,” wrote to me during my research for this post. She said, “Acts of service and kindness free us and our children from self-imposed me-focused lives by widening our circles of compassion.” So true, and so easy to do. To children, the world is about me. I want this, I want that, why does Suzie have this and I don’t? Getting them to understand that many people have less than they have is important, I believe, in raising well rounded adults who care and understand about others.

My girls are young, and at first they didn’t understand the idea that we would raise money to give away. “Can we buy toys with the money we make?” was one question, followed by, “You mean we’re giving all the money we make away?” We looked at the less graphic pictures of Japan – of houses in rubble, of people standing on the street with nothing but the clothes they wore. Then they understood that what we were doing would help these people.

Dr. Jennifer Freed, a psychology professor and the co-founder of Aha! , a non profit serving 1000 teens and their families, says, “It is a fact that the single best predictor of being good with people in work, love, and life is the ability to have empathy. Empathy is something we can learn and can be fostered early.” It is, she goes on to say, the most important tool in getting along with others and, therefore, having a successful life.

So how do we teach our children to be empathetic of others?

We must show kindness to others. Make respect a factor in your home life by encouraging children to use kind words and do good things for family members. Help them understand we work together as a team for the good of everyone.

Model respect as you speak to your friends, family members, and strangers in the grocery store. Remember, your children pick up everything you do and say – and they will in turn copy that. If you are having a bad day and a bad trip to the grocery store, don’t take it out on the cashier. Think about how you would feel if the words you were saying to someone else were coming from your child’s mouth.

Expose your children to giving back. Dr. Kuczmarski says, “Children/teens can give of their work, energy, time and support.” Many schools have community service programs as part of the curriculum, she adds, which expose children to the importance of giving to others. “Examples include assisting in soup kitchens, reading to the blind, volunteering at hospitals, helping with physical rehabilitation needs, and tutoring younger kids with their homework.” We can encourage this by taking them to work with community service programs or, in my case, setting up a lemonade stand, letting them do all the work, and giving their funds to an organization that helps those in need.


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Thursday, March 24, 2011


Caviar Appetizer by Dr. Jennifer Freed

Dr. Jennifer Freed

When celebrating minor or major events in writing I make sure to mark the milestones with my favorite California accented caviar appetizer. I have used this appetizer to motivate me to finish a paragraph as well as to salute the publishing of a book. The ingredients are portable too and have traveled in ice chests to faraway cabins. Occasionally you may even have this appetizer to whet the imagination, and the tongues of the muses.

This appetizer goes best with a dry bubbly and some raucous salutations about good times coming, and copious blessings of some earnest endeavor. It also helps to have luscious and sensuous music in the background as you prepare the appetizer i.e. Latin groove, soft jazz, or African beat.

It is simple to make, however this treat never fails to delight the most cynical and hesitant celebrants.

Caviar Appetizers

Ingredients (ratios are entirely up to the chef’s palette)

Decent Black Caviar or Salmon Roe

Thin sliced avocado wedges

Finely chopped hard boiled eggs

Minced red onions

Sourdough toast points

A dollop of sour cream

Arrange the toppings artfully on the sourdough toast points and experience the burst of piquant with the mellow calming of avocado, and do raise the glass with each bite. Try to be sparing on the amount of bubbly you drink with each nibble because there have been times when this appetizer turned into a heady and delirious debauchery followed by embarrassing dancing, and going to sleep way too early.

The trick of true pleasure is to savor the smallest increments of joy with a ritual of gratefulness. When you mix the heights of caviar with the humbleness of bread and eggs you realize that all creative jubilation comes from hard patient work and the boldness of reaching towards the heavens. Now get to work and plan for the next ritual of indulgence!

About the Author

For more than 25 years, Jennifer Freed, Ph.D., has been a licensed marriage and family counselor, group psychotherapist and educator. She was the Clinical Director at PACIFICA GRADUATE INSTITUTE, one of the country’s leading centers for depth psychology, where she continues to serve as a professor and workshop leader.
Dr. Freed is a recognized expert on behavioral matters such as teen bullying, character development, marriage and family relationships, and diversity issues. She has provided thousands with the practical tools to compassionately reassess personal behaviors and make significant life changes.

National media appearances include GOOD MORNING AMERICA, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, ABC NEWS, FOX NEWS, SIRRIUS RADIO, AIR AMERICA, USA TODAY, DISNEY.COM, LIFESCRIPT.COM, and others. Jennifer Freed currently hosts the popular radio program FREED UP! on Voice America.

Jennifer Freed is the co-founder/director of the highly successful teen program called THE ACADEMY OF HEALING ARTS (AHA!), which serves more than 1000 families annually in the state of California. AHA! is dedicated to the development of character, imagination, emotional intelligence, and social conscience in teenagers , while helping them set goals, support their peers, and serve their community. For The Academy of Healing Arts, Dr. Freed created the educational book series “BECOME YOUR BEST SELF”, which includes workbooks on Relationship Wisdom, Character, Compassion and Creative Expression, targeted to teens and young adults.


by Norine Dworkin Daniels

You’ve sifted through thousands of online profiles, gone on dozens of first dates, drank barrels of house chardonnay and made hours of small talk. Your reward for persevering? Meeting a guy – finally! – worth putting on the fancy lingerie for … with high expectations that he’ll be peeling it off later in the evening.

But before you slide between his (hopefully clean) sheets, ask yourself: Are you safe?And we don’t mean in the Will he turn out to be a closet psycho? sense. Are you being safe about, you know … sex? Do you even remember safe sex?

If you were married for a couple of decades, no doubt it’s been awhile since you had to enforce the No Glove, No Love rule, since you probably think babies not herpes when you think about protection. And if you persuaded your husband to get snipped once your family was complete, chances are it’s been ages since you even thought about that.

But once you’re divorced, dating and mating is a whole different ballgame. For starters, if you were relying on vasectomy, you may need to rethink your birth control method. Though the likelihood of pregnancy drops dramatically once you hit your early forties, it’s not zero. Fortysomething women actually have one of the higher rates of unintended pregnancies, after teens and women in their twenties, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Beyond fear of the Whoops! baby, you also need to think about protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases. And that means carrying condoms. Which women of a certain age aren’t so great about using. New data from the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction in Bloomington, Indiana, show that when it comes to casual sex, fortysomething women use condoms far less frequently than gals in their twenties, thirties and even teenagers. Fewer than 20 percent of fortysomething women in the Kinsey Institute study insisted on condoms during their last casual encounter.

“Women think I’m on the Pill, I’m good to go. But you’re not,” says Los Angeles psychologist and HIV/STD researcher Ramani Durvasula, PhD. “That’s the least of your worries.”

Here’s why: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are about 19 million new STD infections each year. Today, one in six people between the ages of 14 and 49 have genital herpes; one in nine if we’re just counting guys. Plus, there are other STDs circulating that may not have even been on your radar the last time you were single: Things like human papillomavirus (HPV), now linked to cervical and throat cancers, and syphilis, which has been making a steady comeback – women’s rates jumped 88 percent between 2004 and 2008, then dipped a bit last year. Complicating matters, those who have an STD don’t always tell – even when asked. That’s mostly out of fear or embarrassment, notes Durvasula. But – giving folks the benefit of the doubt here – it’s also possible that people don’t realize they’re carrying a virus. Many STDs, like Chlamydia, HPV, even herpes, are often asymptomatic, particularly in men, who then unwittingly, pass it on.

“A man is much more likely to pass an STD to a woman than the other way round because women are the receptive partner,” explains Durvasula. “Most sexually transmitted diseases are passed through abrasion, and it’s the vaginal walls getting rubbed during intercourse. Men don’t get abraded; women do, which is why they’re far more vulnerable to STDs across the board.”

It’s a sexually sketchy world out there. But since celibacy is hardly an appealing option either, keep these things in mind … and some condoms in your nightstand.

Remember, anyone can have an STD.

The viruses and bacteria that cause STDs don’t discriminate based on how many graduate degrees a man has, the salary he earns, the car he drives or the country club he belongs to. “There’s this huge myth that STDs are on the fringes of society,” says Austin family physician Jill Grimes, MD, author of Seductive Delusions: How Everyday People Catch STDs. “Women think that CEOs, accountants, doctors or lawyers aren’t the kind of people who get STDs.”

They do. And so do folks in your own social circle. After her divorce, Jane Fowler dated someone she’d known for decades. He gave her HIV. “You can never know the sexual history of anyone but yourself,” warns Fowler, who founded HIV Wisdom For Older Woman and the National Association on HIV Over Fifty after her diagnosis. “I thought I knew the man who infected me so well. Obviously I didn’t.”

Don’t believe everything he tells you.

Guys have been known to fudge a bit on their height, employment history, marital status. Take his sexual history with a boatload of salt, too. “Too many women have gotten sexually transmitted diseases because they believed the guy who said I haven’t been with anyone for two years, and I’ve been tested,” says Jennifer Freed, PhD, a marriage and family therapist in Santa Barbara, California. “Don’t assume the guy you’ve just met is telling the truth. Why take the risk?”

Indeed, when Emory University researchers surveyed 14,000 adults recently, they found that more than 10 percent of those testing positive for STDs denied being sexually active in the last year; half swore they’d never had a sexual encounter.

Given the all-too-common urge to stay mum, you might Google a potential lover and see what you dig up. “Three different friends of mine recently Googled guys they’d started dating and found past girlfriends who’d posted Do not sleep with So-And-So, he gave me herpes warnings on the Internet,” says Dr. Grimes.

Condoms are not 100 percent protective.

We put a lot of faith in condoms and with good reason. When it comes to STDs, they’re “the best protection we have,” notes Durvasula. And when they’re used correctly, condoms do a “really good job” at preventing STDs transmitted by semen and vaginal secretions, like gonorrhea, Chlamydia, trichomoniasis and HIV, says Dr. Grimes. But STDs like HPV and herpes are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact. Since it’s possible to have herpes on the base of the penis or even on the thighs, sometimes a condom just isn’t enough. “Unless guys wear a condom that covers their entire boxer shorts region, you can’t prevent 100 percent transmission,” says Dr. Grimes. “Condoms decrease HPV and herpes transmission, but they don’t eliminate it.”

You can get herpes without an outbreak.

Perhaps the biggest misconception about herpes is that unprotected sex is safe as long as your partner doesn’t have an outbreak. Let’s just call that out as pure fiction right now. With herpes, the virus is always present and “sheds” even when there are no lesions. Now, what makes this STD particularly tricky, says Durvasula, is that many people who have herpes never experience an outbreak and won’t know they’re infected unless they get a blood test. “But they can still transmit the virus.”

“The likelihood of transmission is highest when you have an active outbreak, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible when you don’t,” confirms Ashlyn Savage, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. “People shed the virus when they’re not having an active outbreak.”

And if getting an ever-lasting STD isn’t reason enough to be careful, know that having herpes ups the risk for HIV as well.

Oral sex carries some risk too.

We’d like to think that oral sex is somehow safer than intercourse … or that, thanks to some slippery Clintonian syntax, it’s not even really sex. But regardless of where you stand on the Is/Isn’t debate, oral sex can expose you to gonorrhea, genital herpes and HPV just as sex down under does. In fact, studies now show that the same strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer also cause certain types of throat cancers. Cancer researchers are blaming the steep increase – some are calling it an epidemic – in tonsil cancer over the last decade on oral HPV infections. In a study done at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, people with HPV were 32 times as likely to develop tonsil cancer as those without. That study also found that having one to five oral sex partners in your sexual history nearly quadrupled the cancer risk while six or more partners boosted risk more than eight times.

Come prepared.

It’s awkward to ask someone about his STD status. But if you’re not absolutely certain you’re the only partner on your guy’s dance card, you really don’t want to wait till you’re tangled together in bed to pop the Don’t we need a condom? question. “When you’re aroused, the adrenaline is flowing, the endorphins are going, and your rational thinking falls apart a bit,” says Miami therapist Lisa Paz, PhD. “You may not make the best health decisions.”

Save yourself the post-coital anxiety by making gloving up non-negotiable – at least until both your STD tests come back clean. “The only way you’re ever 100 percent sure that you and your partner are out of the woods is if you’re both monogamous with each other for six months and you’re tested on the front end and tested on the back end,” says Durvasula.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


You’re probably a pro at fighting with your ex. Perhaps he’s given you years, decades even, of opportunities to practice. Which is no doubt why the two of you are now separated or divorced. And if you can agree to disagree, split your property amicably and stroll away clean with a heart-felt Have a good rest of your life, well then, more power to you. But if you’re like so many couples who divorce, there will still be things that bind you together – children, a business, property, family – even as your marriage dissolves. Inevitably that means communicating … which can become arguing … which can lead to dredging up every bit of nastiness, wrongdoing, disappointment and anger that ultimately drove you apart. And before you know it, you’re going at each other like a pair of ultimate fighters.

The thing is, knock-down-drag-outs may make you feel better in the moment, but they’re not terribly productive. And once you no longer have the love, affection, friendship or even makeup sex to smooth over your differences, you need to fight more strategically so you come away with most of what you’re fighting for. So, whether you’re divvying up credit card debt, working out a co-parenting agreement, pushing for more alimony or simply sorting out who gets custody of the dog and the Mad Men DVDs, relationship experts say that by following these rules of engagement (or estrangment), your “discussions” with your ex will net you more results and a lot less angst.

Rule 1

Never fight in front of the kids. If all you share with your ex is a well-worn futon and a Netflix queue, then skip ahead to Rule 2. But if you do have children together, consider this one of the holiest of divorce commandments. “Never … ever … ever…” emphasizes Jennifer Freed, PhD, MFT, a marriage and family therapist in Santa Barbara, California. “There is nothing more tortuous to a child’s psyche than being in the middle of parental conflict. It splits them emotionally. If they love Dad, are they betraying Mom? If they love Mom, are they betraying Dad? It’s King Solomon’s dilemma but with a child’s psyche. And that makes a child feel terribly unsafe and insecure.” That said, the next time you’re tempted to mix it up with your ex because he’s bringing your child home late on a school night … again, you gotta mom up and put your kid ahead of your anger. You can always give your ex an earful later.

Rule 2

Remember who you’re dealing with. If your guy was intractable before your divorce, there is no reason to expect that your interactions will be less volatile once the judge signs your divorce decree. “Don’t go into any discussion thinking your ex is going to be any different than he ever was,” warns Dr. Freed. “You have nothing at stake emotionally, and the bad communication patterns that led to distance and divorce typically get more aggravated without the emotional attachments. If you have children or finances in common, before you even start the conversation, it’s important to anticipate adversity and consider what his issues might be.”

Rule 3

You set the communication parameters. When you dictate (subtly) when, where and how your communication takes place – in person, on the phone, via email or text – you’ll be ready and able to approach the discussion calmly, so you can get in and get out with minimal drama. “Conversations can quickly go from Can we swap weekends? to You can’t stick to a schedule! You never respect my time!” explains Miami marriage and family therapist Lisa. Paz, PhD. “It’s really important that you’re in the head space to address the issue at hand, so your discussion doesn’t spiral into an argument about everything that was ever wrong in your relationship.”

If your ex catches you off-guard, resist being pulled into a discussion on the spot. Buy some time so you can mentally prepare. “If you’re not ready for the interaction, say Hey, now’s not a good time, let me get back to you by ______. Maybe that’s 15 minutes from now or an hour or tomorrow,” says Dr. Paz. “That way, you’re mentally in the zone and won’t be so reactive.”

Some ex-couples schedule weekly phone calls for an update about the kids. But, at least initially, it might be better to hash out potentially contentious issues through email rather than face to face or even on the phone. “Changing your mode of communication can really help,” says Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, LMFT, a marriage and family therapist in Mount Kisco, New York. “I have two female clients who will never get on the phone with their exes unless it’s an emergency because there’s something about hearing their exes’ voices that really sets them off. But by not having to actually speak with their ex-spouses, they’ve been able to let go of a lot of their anger.”

Another benefit of email: it can slow the communication process enough so that you won’t feel rushed or bullied into making a snap decision you later regret. And keep in mind, even though we’re living in the instant messaging age, you’re not obligated to respond that quickly. If your initial knee-jerk reaction is to fire off a vitriolic email telling your ex exactly where he can stick his demand to, say, completely overhaul your painstakingly devised visitation schedule, pour it all out in an email. But then sleep on it before you hit Send. In the morning, you can probably dial down the snark and send a more reasoned, measured reply. “In my women’s group, I have women write what they wish they could say to get all of their anger out,” says Dr. Freed. “Then they can go to the table and in a sense, turn the other cheek.”

Rule 4

Don’t DUI. Dialing or texting or IM’ing, basically any contact, in person or virtual, while you’re under the influence “will not go well and don’t kid yourself about that,” cautions O’Neill. The probability is high that you’ll say something you’ll be sorry for later … and perhaps not even remember. “Unless it’s an emergency, it’s best not to have any kind of conversations with your ex through any kind of technology if you’ve been drinking or indulging in anything else,” advises O’Neill.

Rule 5

Role play with a friend. There’s a reason politicians drill and drill before big TV debates – that way they can’t get shaken off message and led down the rabbit hole of someone else’s crazy agenda. Borrowing a page from the politician’s playbook can help you stick with your own talking points so you don’t get drawn into arguments you don’t want to have. Work with a therapist or friend to rehearse the various ways a difficult conversation might unfold. Even do a few run-throughs where you scream everything you’ve ever wanted to scream at your ex to get it out of your system, says Dr. Freed. “It’s not productive to bring your rage into the conversation, so you need to vent and spill that somewhere else, get acknowledged for all that you’ve put up with and then really be strategic,” she explains. “The whole point of even talking with your ex is because there’s something you want. You need to be an expert negotiator, which means you need to not be so heated up.”

Rule 6

Do five minutes of aerobic exercise before any discussion. Get on your treadmill, race up and down your stairs, pop in a cardio dance DVD – anything you like, as long as you push yourself to the max. Vigorous aerobic exercise burns off the cortisol and other stress hormones, like norepinephrine and adrenaline, that rush through our veins when emotions run high. Exercise also increases levels of the calming neurochemicals serotonin and dopamine, so you don’t feel as nervous and you can think more clearly and rationally, explains Dr. Freed.

Rule 7

Find common ground. Sure, there are plenty of good reasons that you’re no longer together. But unless he’s an abusive psycho stalker guy – in which case your attorney should handle any necessary communications – you can probably find something you both still agree on, particularly if you have children. For instance, say, your daughter isn’t doing her homework when she’s at your ex’s house. Rather than accusing your ex of being a slacker dad, Dr. Freed suggests this tack: “Start with the three things you have in common on this issue: We love our kid. We’re committed parents. We want her to do well in school. Right there you have interest instead of defensiveness,” she explains. You’ve also avoided the Blame Game and in acknowledging a shared challenge – We both experience this problem, so we need to figure this out together – you’ve forged an alliance with your most natural ally. Because face it, even if you didn’t work as spouses, you’re still parents. And no one will love your child the way the other person who had a hand in creating her does.

Rule 8

Keep it civil. Maybe he is an asshole. That’s why you divorced him. But is telling him that (again and again) going to entice him to agree to whatever it is you’re asking for – swapping weekends with the kids, picking up the tab for Li’l Suzy’s braces, finally putting your beach condo on the market? Unlikely. So … remember what your grandma always said about catching more flies with honey. “If you call him an inconsiderate bastard, he’s not going to say, You’re right. Thank you so much for pointing that out. But whatever you were really approaching him about in the first place will get thrown out the window, and any agreement you could have reached is further away,” says Dr. Paz.

Rule 9

Stay focused. “Continually take inventory during your conversation to make sure you stick to the issue at hand,” advises Dr. Paz. That way you avoid getting sucked into a negative free-for-all where you’re just spinning your wheels, rehashing ancient history. “It’s one thing to put up with unproductive disagreements in your relationship. But you shouldn’t have to with your ex,” says Dr. Paz. “You’re done, the relationship is over. Now it’s just logistics. Your dealings should be as pointed and as focused and productive as possible. Get in and get out.”

Rule 10

Identify your (rock) bottom line. No one gets 100 percent of what they ask for. And that includes your ex. So the idea is to figure out in any given disagreement, what’s the least you’re willing to settle for and still feel good about the terms. “If you want to walk away from a fight or disagreement feeling good then it can’t just be that you didn’t throw daggers at each other,” says Dr. Paz. “If you walk away feeling so dissatisfied with the interaction, then that too is an unfair fight. But if you walk away getting your lowest bare minimum, then you won, for you.”

Rule 11

Bail out rather than melt down. When the fighting gets supremely nasty, most of us cease to be rational, reasonable, logical beings. Literally. Once the fight or flight response gets triggered, flooding our bodies and brains with stress chemicals, the instinctive, emotional part of our brain – aka “lizard brain” – takes over, and we actually revert to a more primitive state where it’s all about survival, explains Dr. Freed. Reason is abandoned. Compromise is abandoned. And nothing cooperative will ever come of that. “Once you cross over into a certain rage place, you’ve activated a part of your brain that’s no longer rational,” says Dr. Paz. “If you recognize that your blood is boiling, you’re starting to sweat, your heart is palpitating or you’re getting that really revved up feeling and starting to get nuts, don’t be afraid to get out of the fight and say, You know what? I’ve got to run or I’ve got to take this other call; let’s revisit this later. And if it means telling a white lie to get off the phone, do it.”

In fact, Dr. Freed recommends jotting down several Get Off the Phone Quick Excuses on index cards and have them at the ready in case tensions escalate. A few to use:

School’s calling, gotta go.

Toilet’s overflowing, I’ll phone you back.

FedEx’s at the door and they need a signature. Let’s pick this up in 20.

It takes a full 20 minutes for those stress hormones to dissipate and your brain to calm down, according to Dr. Freed. In the meantime, take some deep breaths. Step outside. Go for a run. When your head’s cooler and you’ve regained your equilibrium, you can get ready for round two.