Family Drawing Game

Here’s a great intervention idea submitted by reader Emily Clifton, LISW. Ms. Clifton earned a gift certificate to for her submission. Learn how you can do the same!

Purpose: Activity for assessment of family’s dynamics and communication

Materials needed: One large piece of paper, pack of markers

Appropriate for: A family with young children with whom you will be doing some type of family or play therapy

Directions: Sit family around a table with paper and markers.Tell family “I am only going to give you the rules to this activity one time.I will give a marker to one person.That person will make one line on the paper, then choose a marker and give it to the next person to make one line.This will continue for 15-20 minutes.”Try to give as little extra information as possible, so that the family will interpret the rules.While the family is drawing, reflect on choices or interpretations the family members are making.Afterwards, ask each family member their thoughts on the process or reflections made during drawing.Also reflect on the drawing as a whole.

Observations that could be important while drawing: There will often be a first person who breaks a rule, such as making a second line, which will prompt someone else to tattle on them.This can often signal tensions between members who try to maintain control in the family.There could also be a person who is strictly trying to adhere to the rule or someone who tries to control what others are doing to the drawing, asking them to change the color or order of family members chosen.

Interpreting the drawing itself: A family that does not communicate well or has broken relationships will often have separate areas in the paper, whereas members that get along will feel comfortable building on one another’s lines.If a family desires to work together, they will often listen to others’ suggestions or try to go with other members’ ideas.For example, if someone has made bunny ears on a line, another might add eyes or a nose.In contrast, some families will try to change one another’s pictures and something that started as a bunny may be turned into an alien.This could signal a need to one-up or annoy the other person.Some people will also add things to the drawing to try and push the therapist or family member’s limits, like making a cute bunny into a zombie assassin bunny.Finally the amount to which the different family members try to make the picture into something can be a sign of their creativity or problem-solving skills.The picture usually starts out abstract, but as the picture proceeds, more flexible and creative families tend to try to bring some order into the drawing, by making the lines into something concrete or at least connecting the abstract lines in some type of order.

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