We all know mental health issues do not exist in a vacuum, but are developed, maintained, and managed within people’s network of social relationships. Children’s mental health concerns are no exception. Kids are surrounded by parents, siblings, teachers, friends, and other members of their communities who have a powerful impact on their well-being.
- A large piece of paper
- Drawing supplies (markers, pencil crayons, or colored pens)
- A list of people that are significant to the child
1) Begin by asking the child to name all of the important people in his or her life. Tell him that he can include family, friends, teachers, coaches, whomever he wants to include.
2) Tell the child that you are going to ask him to draw his kingdom. Start by having him draw himself a place to live in this kingdom. He may choose to draw a castle or a house. He may choose to draw his building in the middle of the piece of paper or somewhere else. Wherever and however he chooses is fine.
3) Once the child has drawn his own place to live, ask him to pick another person from his list and draw that person a place to live as well. Do the same until all of the important people in the child’s life have a place in his kingdom. It will work best to have him draw a separate living space for each of the people in, but if the child insists on having two people in the same building, you can allow him to do so.
4) Take note of the placement of the child’s various significant people. Whose house is closest to his? Whose is farthest? Whose is biggest? Whose get the most attention to detail? These observations may say something about the quality of the relationship and will give you insight into how the child views his world.
5) Next ask the child if you could talk a little bit more about how he gets along with each person. The child can continue adding detail to his kingdom as you talk about these various relationships. Alternatively, he may like to start drawing some roads between the different houses.
6) Looking at one house at a time, ask some of the following questions (let the child’s age and maturity level guide your choice of questions and how you ask):
- What do you like about this person? What don’t you like?
- What do you like about your relationship with this person? What don’t you like about it?
- Do you ever fight/disagree with this person? What about? How often do you fight about that? What – happens when you fight with this person?
- Would you like anything to be different about your relationship with this person?
- How do you feel when you are around this person? (You can use a feeling chart if a child has a hard time coming up with feeling words)
- If you were the King/Queen of this kingdom, what rules would this person have to follow?
- Is it easy or hard to talk to this person about your feelings?
- Do you feel like this person understands how you feel?
7) After looking at specific relationships, you can ask some more general questions, including:
- Who, in your kingdom, makes you happy?
- If you were King/Queen, what rules would everyone have to follow?
- Can you confide in anyone in your kingdom? Can you tell anyone how you are feeling?
- Who do you most like spending time with? Who do you least like spending time with?
- Are any of the people in your kingdom new?
- Have there been any changes with any of the people in your kingdom? How do you feel about those changes?
- Were there people who used to be in your kingdom that aren’t now? How do you feel about them not being in your kingdom anymore?
8) If the child wants, you can pick words or phrases to include on the houses or the roads in the kingdom to represent his relationships with each of the different people. He can also choose give a name to his kingdom.
9) Use the information to see what aspects of his family/community systems are supportive to him and which may be causing difficulty and may require some intervention.
Some children will be more literal than others with this activity, but in any case it should yield some good information on the child’s relationship dynamics for your assessment process. Sometimes a child will be very clear about things that he would like to see changed in his relationships, which can then form the basis for some of your counselling goals with the child. Happy drawing!