Fighting violence against women

Children’s Drawings – Their Inner World

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Therapists and health care professionals see drawings and games as a primary means for a child’s expression of their inner world. Moreover, the playing a game and drawing pictures become key therapeutic techniques when considered as a critical developmental need for the child’s cognitive and emotional being. They serve as the child’s central means of communication for the expression of conflicts, thoughts, feelings and experience of their surroundings. The drawing is not limited by rules, regulations or directions of any kind, when compared to language acquisition, and enables free and abstract expression that is influenced by the child’s mental and physical condition.

There are several signs in children’s drawings that may indirectly indicate mental distress or trauma, current or past, such as physical or psychological abuse, rejection and social hardships, sexual abuse and more.

That said, it’s imperative to emphasize, that detecting mental distress and traumatic experiences in children’s drawing requires the analysis of numerous drawings, observation of the child, information from significant people in the child’s life (parents, extended family, school professionals) and the child’s story and message about the drawing he/she drew. In this way the elements and information from various sources converge in order to provide a better and deeper understanding of what is conveyed in the drawing and its connection to what is occurring in the child’s world.

In this way certain hardships the child is facing can be discovered. For example, total distortion of certain body parts, erasure or emphasis of various parts of the drawing. In addition, there is importance to the way the child draws and not necessarily what he/she draws. This means relating to the child’s feelings that are raised about the drawing (great anxiety expressed regarding a specific figure in the drawing, or the opposite, repeated and often disregard and omission of other elements) that the child drew and expressions thereof in various themes, such as the style and quality of the drawing, page organization, and others. This is where the developmental aspect becomes significant for the analysis of the drawing; for example, the discovery of sexual investigation in children’s drawings or blackening of the drawings, is normative in certain stages of development and doesn’t necessarily illustrate a trauma that was experienced by the child. Similarly, graphic-motor difficulties could be interpreted in a drawing as distortions which reveal emotional difficulties.

However, there are various elements in drawings that can be seen as an expression of emotional elements and difficult experiences—regression in the child’s drawing, rigid drawing that’s not spontaneous, repetitions in the drawings, body parts that are overemphasized, difficulty in drawing clear lines or emphasis and significant stress and more.

Drawing 1: The Lost Head: In some of the drawings in a series drawn by an eight-year-old girl who was staying in a shelter there is an attempt to hide the continuation of the body. While this characteristic can be common among kindergartners, her drawing could express significant developmental setbacks alongside an emotional disorder that includes terrible body anxiety and difficulty controlling urges.

Drawing 2: Another girl drew a house. Tension is clear in her drawing of the building and it seems that there is a storm raging in the back part of the three-dimensional house, which creates the picture of a tense house. The chaos that arises expresses a feeling of anxiety and inner disorganization. It’s possible that this expresses attempts to defend oneself from different events occurring inside the house.

Drawing 3: Drawing some more, the girl drew a tree. You can clearly see the lack of foliage and the bent over tree. It gives the feeling of death, opposite the nearby warming sun. The drawing brings up elements of depression beside frustration that comes from the desire for connection and affection.

Drawing 4-5: A house that looks closed and locked. In the window there is a small, scared figure. In another drawing by the child, he drew a tree. It’s clear there is no separation between the various parts of the drawing and there are no branches or leaves. This expresses a feeling of extreme loneliness and a deep desire for interpersonal relations.

Drawing 6: There’s a small me figure, pulled from the solid ground and actually floating in space. You can clearly see this in the flying up of the hair and lack of expression and facial features. The figure brings up anxiety and lack of self confidence that is growing with abstinence. There is difficulty with aggression like when children blur or erase hands. The center of the child’s body is blackened in an explosive way and without any shape that could testify to some specific type of bodily harm.

Drawing 7: In this boy’s drawing we can see an additional very big and threatening figure opposite the boy which can illustrate great anxiety toward a significant person or authority, who is following the boy with her big eye and has a blackened, jagged mouth that expresses the aggression and anger that she has.

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