Painting with Bob

Teenagers are finding online ways towards resilience.


It’s not the best of times for mental health generally and definitely not for the young. Young people are bombarded with bad stuff everywhere. The Earth is doomed, the economy is about to crash again and worse than last time, friends around them are having all sorts of crises…

It’s hard to stay optimistic or even semi-pessimistic these days. But I have made it my mission, despite months of moaning on about stuff, to present some sense of positivity over Christmas. Not false positivity because teenagers can smell that a mile off in a way that a lot of adults these days don’t seem to be able to, but something approaching positive realism. In this I am learning from the kids. They just get on with life because that is all they have – which is not to say that they don’t actively address the issues on a personal level – becoming vegan, cutting plastics use, standing up against bullying or racism, etc. It’s just that the issues are so huge and will dominate their entire lives.

They may need an extra hug, some time under the duvet watching Mamma Mia or whatever it takes, but they often do resilience their own way and it kind of works.

In the past daughter one was on a whastapp circle of confidence with her friends which was dedicated to pepping each other up in the face of constant pressure to be perfect in every way and the subsequent generalised feeling of failure. I am now getting into daughter two’s approach to mock GCSEs. She has taken to some weird whispering thing on Youtube. Apparently whispering stuff is soothing and not spooky and everyone is doing it. In particular she is watching a lot of an artist called Bob Ross, who is a bit of a phenomenon. He looks like something out of an Open University tutorial circa 1980, but his videos are incredibly calming. You can’t be stressed watching Bob paint a landscape and explain all the colours he uses in soft, gentle tones. He is the Twitter antidote. There may, of course, be some sort of evil subliminal messages running through the videos, but I have yet to see any harmful effects. Daughter two is sailing through the mocks with Bob.

I’m not sure her marks will reflect her inner calm or in fact if her inner calm is just a charade, but outwardly she seems okay. She is also being buoyed by supposedly complimentary remarks from a mystery boy who has told her that she is “like a butterfly in a field of wasps”. This is the kind of comment that appeals to daughter two, but the rest of us are not so sure.

Only son says he does not see daughter two as a butterfly at all, more as some sort of crazed moth. He has worked his way through one too many Diary of a Wimpy Kids and has selected a whole new author from the school library – Shakespeare [kid’s version, but with quotes from the plays].  “Hamlet is my favourite so far, mum,” he told me, adding confidently: “Shakespeare is not as challenging as Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” That’s a quote Jeff Kinney can add to the back page of his next book…

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