Have you ever looked at something your preschooler scribbled and wondered what was going on in her head? Lots of moms in our communities have expressed surprise and even dismay over something their kids have drawn. Their most common questions are, how much should parents read into their tots' art, and should they worry when their child's pictures are odd or inappropriate.
Here's what moms think about the deeper meaning of kids' art that seems inappropriately sexual or violent, and some prudent advice from clinical psychologist and behavior consultant H’vovi Bhagwagar, who's an expert in this field.
When Your Child Draws Private Parts
Circle of Moms member Amber H. is a little concerned by her 3-year-old daughter's picture of a lady with somewhat exaggerated female genitalia. She was "caught off guard" by it and wonders if other moms have experienced something like this.
The consensus is reassuring: Janice C. and Cherish A. explain that this kind of "curiosity about private parts is completely normal," adding that children sometimes express their curiosity by adding detail to pictures, so these kinds of drawings are nothing to worry about. Sharlene W. believes it's just a normal stage, one that her own kids went through as well: "It's part of [a child] learning the differences about the body and private parts. All 3-year-olds go through that learning stage."
When Your Child's Drawings are Violent
Witnessing your preschooler depict violence of any kind can be extremely upsetting. Bridget C. turned to the Circle of Moms communities when her 5-year-old drew an "injured bird that had gotten stabbed accidentally by a sword." The picture was graphic and bloody, and left Bridget justifiably worried that something might be wrong with her daughter. She also worried what the teacher might think, since this happened at school.
Debra A. says to pay attention, because kids really do express their feelings with drawings: "My granddaughter is pretty good at drawing out figures that depict what she is feeling inside...maybe your daughter is doing the same." She suggests that Bridget talk to her daughter and ask her to share what she was thinking about when she drew the picture.
Tarina J. feels that a drawing like this is probably nothing to worry about, but should be discussed, just to make sure. She cautions Bridget to be careful not to show her daughter how upset she is: "The mind of a young child is hardly an easy thing to figure out, but if she knows how much it upset you, it could alter her willingness to be honest with you in the future, so be careful how you handle it."
Another mom, Tarina, suggests keeping an eye on her television viewing: "...A lot of cartoons are way more violent than we realize..." Davina W. also makes a good point about monitoring your preschooler's use of smartphones and video games: "Some of the kids' games out there are all about torturing animals (birds, cats, cows etc.)."
Bridget did indeed talk about the drawing with her daughter, and returned to Circle of Moms with a reassuring update. According to her daughter, "the bad guys hurt the bird and the other bird is helping it." Bridget also talked to her daughter about why the image was a little upsetting, and now, she says, her daughter "knows that it's not okay to hurt animals or anyone, so I think that she's okay."
When You Should Worry, and How Much
Luckily for the moms involved, both of these scenarios discussed in the Circle of Moms communities turned out to be nothing to worry about. So what kinds of preschooler drawings should you be concerned about? Clinical psychologist and behavior consultant H’vovi Bhagwagar, who blogs at Loving Your Child, agrees with the many Circle of Moms members who feel that troublesome drawings don't necessarily mean there is anything abnormal or seriously wrong with your preschooler. They often just reveal that your child is struggling with something and may need to talk. Here are the four scenarios Dr. Bhagwagar flags:
1. Sudden Shifts In Content
Dr. Bhagwagar indicates that sudden changes in the nature of drawings, especially toward "Monsters, guns, weapons, ‘ghosts’, or other such violent or threatening drawings" may indicate some inner turmoil.
2. Predominant Use of Black And Red
Therapists have identified these colors as universally meaningful, even for young children. "Black often is an indication of depression or feeling hopeless or restricted. Red may indicate anger or aggression." Keep in mind that one occasional drawing in these colors is not a cause for concern. Rather, look for a pattern or a series of drawings.
3. Unusual Depictions of Family
Many preschoolers like to draw their own families, but when these pictures leave out a family member, or when your child situates herself or a relative out of place or divided from the rest of the family, it can indicate that there are conflicts at home. Dr. Bhagwagar also emphasizes the important role of the family drawing over all other types of preschooler art: "...any upsetting event currently in a child’s life usually shows up in the family drawing."
4. Self Representation
Asking your child to draw themselves (or really, any human figure) can provide a glimpse into how she actually sees herself: "Is the figure small or puny or too large? Is some area in the drawing heavily shaded? Does the drawing have teeth, weapons or other unusual content? All these are signs of insecurity and conflict."
Keep in mind that you might want to seek professional help if your child's drawings disturb you, rather than diagnose anything yourself: "Therapists and psychologists require years of practice before they can master symbolic revelations from drawings."
What do you make of your child's drawings?
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.