Ask your child to imagine which animal everyone in the family most resembles. Draw your child out by asking about why they chose the animal they did, was it based on appearance, behavior or an affinity of spirit that they see between you and a bear or penguin?
Consider what your child says, and what it implies about the way that they experience you (as well as siblings and others in the household). Are you perceived as hot-tempered, scary sometimes or are you seen as warm and nurturing while they see themselves as helpless or hapless? Perhaps they see you, or your spouse as a turtle who withdraws into their shell, or as some rare creature that is hard to spot in the forest or jungle.
Kids will also generally be interested in how you see them, and why. It is powerful to be thought about and seen accurately. If you tell your introverted and shy kid that they are a lion, they will probably feel disappointed in not being the creature that they imagine you wish they were; but if you tell your shy child that as an animal they might be a Panda, mystical and kind, misunderstood yet loved, perhaps they will feel more rather than less valid in being the way that they are.
Depending on how much time you have to fill in the dog days of summer, you might do an art project and draw the animals you all discussed. You might combine animals and start to make up mythical creatures. You might draw a Liger, which is pretty much Napoleon Dynamite’s favorite animal. Or maybe your child is a bit old for art projects, however, if the mood is right it is a rare kid who isn’t interested in the subject of how they are perceived by others… even by us parents.
So, let’s dedicate today to honoring the best of animal spirit in our children, to non-defensively hearing about what animals we might be—and to then striving to be our best Selves in the animal spirit sense of our character. If we’re a bear, let’s be kind and gentle bears; if we’re sharks, let’s be friendly sharks. If we are turtles, let’s come out of our shells in the service of all our collective children. Play a little!