What children's drawings say: how to identify a problem

Surely, on some occasion, we have found ourselves asking ourselves the question What “meaning” will the drawing that my child gave me or shared with me have? or having concerns about what to pay “attention” to their drawings. Also, on some occasions we tend to analyze what they draw, wanting to draw “conclusions” or arrive at “hypotheses” of what that child wanted to convey with that drawing, but the reality is that it is important to keep in mind that only a professional in the area of mental health, a psychologist, is the ideal and qualified person to analyze and interpret a children’s drawing, always bearing in mind that it should never be analyzed in isolation, but rather attending to and contemplating different factors (one of them the context in which the child lives), to make an adequate analysis.

And while only a mental health professional can address issues of analysis and interpretation, there are indicators that we have to be attentive to, since children’s drawings are indicative of not only the emotional level, but also the cognitive and motor development of every child. Two of these indicators are:

The way they make their strokes on paper: children’s drawing comprises different stages, according to the evolutionary stage in which that child is. As they grow, the production of children’s drawings evolves and becomes more complex. Knowing what is expected for each evolutionary stage will allow us to know if our child may be presenting difficulties in the motor area, for example.

The content of the drawings: if they are, for example, related to themes of violence and if this occurs recurrently in their artistic productions. It is worth mentioning that the content itself should not be analyzed on its own and in isolation. It is also important to observe if the child presents changes at the behavioral level and in her mood, as well as to evaluate the current context that she is going through.

It is important that as adults we accompany the drawings that our children share with us, not from an interpretive perspective, but from communication and dialogue: asking them how they feel; how their day was, if there is any situation that worries or anguishes them, to be able to understand and delve into how they feel and not “limit ourselves” to wanting to glimpse their emotional state just for a drawing.

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Bearing in mind then that children’s drawings are one of the most valuable resources to understand what happens to them and how children feel, it is important instead of focusing on drawing interpretive conclusions, to focus on enabling dialogue without any kind of prejudice: let’s talk to them when they are drawing, let’s ask them what they are doing, who they are representing and why, without making value judgments. In this way, they will be able to feel the confidence and security to be able to tell if something happens to them.

We must bear in mind that the data we obtain through children’s drawings can help us discover the existence of problems that the child may be going through, but we cannot know in depth about their content. For that reason, great prudence is advised in observing these and always when in doubt, if in addition to the drawings there are other symptoms, always go to a health professional.

Each child is different, that is why it is so important to attend to their uniqueness because, although they are in the same evolutionary stage as the rest, they have their own experiences, a specific family environment, etc. For this reason, the reading that we make of children’s drawings cannot be carried out apart from a series of important aspects that are all those related to the life of that child.

Child psychologist, and co-founder of JUEGOlogía, where for several years they have been equipping health professionals and parents with playful and therapeutic tools to work on different cognitive, emotional and social areas in children.

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