Help a family member.

Teaching your children how to cope with challenges in life is one of the most important things you can do for them. You can use Change to Chill and the ideas below to help. You might find some strategies that help you too!

What You Need

  • Electronic devices for each each of you or one with a larger screen that can you can both see
  • Internet connection

No parent wants to see their child totally stressed out (or to be stressed out themselves). Stress makes family life challenging for everyone. However, as much as we might like to shelter our families from it all, there are a lot of different pressures in life and some stress is normal and unavoidable. Fortunately there are also many positive ways of dealing with it.

We know that teens in particular aren’t always receptive to parents’ advice. So we’ve developed a structure for using the Change to Chill website with family members that allows for tweaks and adjustments to suit your unique needs. Follow your child’s lead as to what’s important and helpful. The most important thing is to introduce Change to Chill so they know they can turn to it for ideas and information anywhere and anytime they have access to the Internet.

Step 1: Get Started

Get Started

Watch the Change to Chill intro video together.

Step 2: Determine Stress Factors

Determine Stress Factors

Encourage your teen to take the Stress Factors quiz. Better yet, both of you take it at the same time on separate computers. There are five questions and no right or wrong answers. Be sure to give your teen privacy but also be there if they want to talk. By taking the quiz your son or daughter will learn about where their own stress is coming from and what stress does to them.

After the 5th and final question is answered and they click “next,” a results page will appear. Take time for reviewing the customized results and exploring the recommended resources on the website. Again, don’t pressure your teen to share their answers or results if they don’t want to. Note that answers are not saved on the website and will disappear once you leave the site.


Step 3: What Is Stress?

What Is Stress?

Watch the Stress Test video together. Then read through the Causes of Stress. What Is Stress?

Next, read about the Screen-Stress Connection (below) and talk with your teen about the topics covered here.

Teens and the Screen-Stress Connection: What Parents and Other Adults Need to Know

Screen time has gotten a lot of attention over the past few years. Today’s teens are the first to grow up in a world where smart phones, tablets, and even watches present the ability to have nearly constant access to electronic media and social interaction. As a parent, it can be hard to know what’s reasonable, what’s healthy, and when to be concerned when it comes to time spent on devices.

Screen time generally gets a bad rap; it’s blamed for everything from rising rates of illness to bad posture to social isolation. The problem is, screen time really isn’t one thing, right? Electronic media is actually used for a bunch of different reasons: school, social media, texting, mapping, playing games, reading the news, listening to music or watching shows, and a lot more. At Change to Chill we believe there are many good things that screens bring into our lives (like this webpage, for example!). Since Change to Chill is all about reducing and managing stress, we thought it was important to look at some of the emerging research on the screen-stress connection. There’s no doubt there is at least some correlation between certain types of screen time and certain types of stress. Correlation means there’s a connection, even if we don’t fully understand how it works. A lot of people are working on figuring that part out. In the meantime, here’s some of what we know:

Screen time is linked to physical stress.

Forty three percent of today’s teens get less than seven hours of sleep. That’s at least a couple of hours less than experts recommend. It’s also less than it used to be. The amount teens sleep has been falling in the past decade and researchers have found that young people who spend more time online get less sleep than their peers who spend less time online.

Lack of sleep can lead to a cascading list of problems, including difficulty in school and activities, anxiety and depression, obesity, and other health problems.

Spending five or more hours a day online (compared to an hour or less) increased by more than 50 percent the risk of sleeping too little in teens. Spending three hours a day online raised the risk of too little sleep by nearly 20 percent. There are probably lots of reasons for this connection, but we do know that one of them is physical: The blue light that screens emit inhibits the production of melatonin, which is the hormone that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep.

All of these problems can be made worse by a lack of physical activity that often accompanies increased time spent on screens.

Screen time is also connected to social and emotional stress.

Author and researcher Jean Twenge writes, “In just the five years between 2010 and 2015, the number of U.S. teens who felt useless and joyless – classic symptoms of depression – surged 33 percent in large national surveys.” She goes on to say that she and her colleagues believe that screens are behind the shift. “Not only did smartphone use and depression increase in tandem, but time spent online was linked to mental health issues across two different data sets.

Talk about the different sources of stress you each experience. Has that changed over time? Do the same things that caused you stress when you were younger bother you now? What do you both think might be some sources of stress in the future? Explain again that Change to Chill is all about learning to deal with stress and change your ways of thinking to help you thrive in spite of whatever life throws your way.

What does screen-related social and emotional stress actually look like for teens? Everyone is different, of course, but here are four ways it can play out:

  1. Social isolation: According to Twenge, there has been a significant decline since 2012 in the time teens spend in in-personal social interaction. Face-to-face contact time is known to be a primary factor in positive mental health.
  2. Comparison: Have you ever heard the saying, “Comparison is the thief of joy”? Most people think that Theodore Roosevelt said it first. It makes a lot of sense; think about social media and the internet: The more time a person spends paying attention to what others are doing or having or being, the less time they spend focusing on and appreciating their own situation. Even if your teen is comparing to make themselves feel better, doing so robs them of the opportunity to just appreciate themselves for exactly who they are, with all their gifts and flaws.
  3. Feeling like a fraud: Another kind of emotional stress comes from trying too hard to make your own life seem more awesome or interesting than it actually feels to you. This can cause a kind of stress called cognitive dissonance, which happens when a person’s behaviors don’t match their internal attitudes or beliefs. It’s not lying, it’s just not being true to who you really are and it can feel pretty terrible.
  4. The time suck that is the internet: Finally, there’s the stress of having lost track of time and done a bunch of stuff you didn’t set out to do, and none of the things you planned to do. If you’ve ever been on the internet you know what we’re talking about.

There are things you can do to relieve the pressure.

So, yes, there’s a definite screen-stress connection but we don’t think screens are all bad. There are lots of ways that screens help us communicate, learn, play, and participate in the world around us. Fortunately, there are things teens (and all of us) can do to maximize the benefits and lessen the downsides of a screen-heavy lifestyle. Here are some ways to start:

  • Give yourself a break before bed—The National Sleep Foundation recommends not using screens right before bed or in bed. We know a lot teens work on homework or read right up until bedtime, but challenge everyone in your family to put their screens away as early as possible in the evening. Can you give yourselves 15 minutes? 30? An hour? Try charging devices in a room other than where people sleep to help avoid the temptation. Better yet, invest in an alarm clock for your teen’s morning wakeup instead of their phone!
  • Learn what triggers stress and limit those behaviors—Start noticing the emotions and even physical sensations you have when you’re online or communicating through a device; encourage your teen to do the same. Learn about the stress response and encourage your teen to start trying to notice when they feel it coming on. What triggers it? Once you and your teen start to notice trends or patterns related to stress, make some positive adjustments, such as unfollowing certain people, only checking social media at certain times of the day, or deleting the accounts and apps that stress you most.
  • Move around—“Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory and learning,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey. Exercise can actually reverse the effects of stress and lift depression. It also makes you feel better inside and out. Screen time tends to be sedentary, which means if your teen has a lot of it they may not be getting a lot of physical activity. Help your teen to find balance; encourage your teen to get up and moving regularly throughout the day, and make a point to get outside together if you can.
  • Spend face-to-face time with people you like—Humans are social creatures. We need a web of support and interaction in order to thrive as well as survive. Making a point to connect in real life, not just online, can go a long way toward helping everyone in your family Change to Chill.

Now, talk about the different sources of stress you each experience. Has that changed over time? Do the same things that caused you stress when you were younger bother you now? What do you both think might be some sources of stress in the future? Explain again that Change to Chill is all about learning to deal with stress and change your ways of thinking to help you thrive in spite of whatever life throws your way.

Step 4: Introduction to Mindfulness

Introduction to Mindfulness

Mindfulness and meditation are two of the healthiest and most effective stress-busting strategies.

  • Mindfulness is the objective observation of the present moment. It reduces anxiety by focusing on the present moment—not the past or the future, both of which can create anxiety.
  • Meditation is the practice of turning your attention to a single point of focus. It can take many different forms.

Change to Chill has a number of options for learning about mindfulness and trying meditation with the help of videos and guided audio recordings. Learning some easy relaxation and meditation techniques can help you think more clearly, make better decisions, and manage whatever comes your way. Take a few minutes to explore the different meditations and then go to Mindful Eating at the very bottom of the page. Paying focused attention while eating a small treat such as a piece of dried fruit or individually wrapped candy is a simple, fun way to learn about the concept of mindfulness. Read through the instructions together and then do the activity following the step-by-step directions. After you’ve finished, talk about it:

  • What did you notice?
  • What did you like most? Dislike most?
  • How can you incorporate mindful eating into meals and snacks? Would that change your experience with food?

Try Meditation

Step 5: Five-Minute Meditation

Five-Minute Meditation

Use the online five-minute video to provide participants with first-hand meditation experience. Invite them to get in a comfortable position. Inform them they can either watch the full video quietly or close their eyes and just listen. Either way, encourage them to follow the instructions and try the meditation. At the end take a few minutes to discuss what they thought of the experience.

Step 6: Guided Imagery

Guided Imagery

Watch the Guided Imagery video together and try one of the processes, either to de-stress or to focus on a future goal. At the end talk about how you think you could use this strategy in different specific situations.

Step 7: What's Next?

What’s Next?

Changing to Chill is what’s known as a practice. It’s something you do regularly and learn about over time. No one ever just learns to relax once and then has it mastered. Fortunately the Change to Chill resources are available any time and anywhere young people have Internet access. To encourage your teen and yourself to stay motivated to continue what you’ve started today, choose one activity or suggestion from the website that you are each committed to trying over the next week. Agree to come back together in seven days specifically to review the website and talk about what you tried and how it went.

Additional Resources

Activities and Tools

Experience how Change to Chill activities can help teens stress less.

How to Get Started

Download the Change to Chill Starter Kit to start impacting teens today.


Learn and share about teen mental well-being.

Lead a Workshop

Ready to use Change to Chill? Find teachable content here.

Community Partnerships

Change to Chill works in your community – see how.