When children draw

Drawing gives the child understanding about him or herself …

During my therapy, I work with children of different ages. Every child chooses his own way of working; some children prefer to talk, others like to play with puppets, breathing exercises, drawing..etc. Especially younger children like to draw, something that children often do on a daily base. It is a way of expressing that does not ask for language, nor words; talking can be very difficult for a child because it is not easy finding the right words for your feelings. Even for an adult, this can be very challenging; what word really says what you feel?

Drawing can be done anytime during therapy. At the beginning of therapy, a child can draw about a hobby, their room, a pet or the family. By doing this a child feels that I am interested in his or her life and therefore experiences a safe place in my presence. It is important that the choice lies with the child because then I will see what is important in his life right now. If I want to do it my way, a child will hardly or reluctantly cooperate. Sometimes I propose a certain way of drawing, like a cartoon, but still, the child chooses.

A little further in the process, I ask the child to draw about a specific situation, such as a challenge in their life. By drawing this challenge and talking about what we see in the drawing the child and I get more insight about that challenge.


While children are drawing, they often tell me what it is about. I avoid finding explanations about the drawing, nor will I ask diagnostic questions. Actually, by drawing, the child is trying to find its own solutions for something in her or his life. So, if I asked diagnostic questions, I would take away the child’s involvement to find her or his own solution.

So, my questions involve things I see in the drawing, for example, ‘Who is this?’, ‘What are these animals doing?’ Or ‘If I could walk into your drawing, what would I see?’ By drawing and talking about it, the child gets the opportunity to relive certain moments, to process thoughts or to let go of something. As a result, a process of dealing with something and/or acceptance of a situation can be set in motion.

Some time ago, a child made a drawing of himself. The child drew angry soldiers next to the hands. These angry soldiers were being kept in a prison. Outside the prison were the sad soldiers. The angry soldiers called out to the sad soldiers: “Please, let us out, let us out. We want to get out and show our anger! Only you can get us out!’ The child realized that his angry behaviour was caused by sadness. 


In summary:

Drawing is a step towards a goal. It is a tool to put inner thoughts on paper through images and thereby gain insight into the identity of the child. What a child draws on paper is mostly a situation that is happening in his or her life. 

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