How do we recog­nise chil­dren who are flour­ish­ing with their fam­i­ly and also out in the wider world? First of all they only cry as babies when they have a real rea­son – tired, hun­gry, thirsty, under the weath­er, etc. Their par­ents don’t pose as par­ents in name only, they always approach their babies in a lov­ing respect­ful way. Fre­quent­ly those flour­ish­ing babies’ fam­i­lies have an extend­ed fam­i­ly or close depend­able friends in their lives too.

How­ev­er, the biggest fac­tor in the fam­i­lies of chil­dren who flour­ish is…warmth! It’s a chick­en and egg thing, the chil­dren are treat­ed warm­ly by every­one because it is so easy and hap­py to be around them…because they are being brought up in a warm envi­ron­ment. As teenagers and adults they are also much more car­ing about those around them, both fam­i­ly and friends. They are fre­quent­ly the lead­ers in a group and are by the same token not afraid to stand alone because of their beliefs. They show strength of char­ac­ter at a very young age.

Let’s get a lit­tle more spe­cif­ic. I’ve done two stud­ies. One con­tains 28 chil­dren from 14 fam­i­lies, the oth­er con­tains 20 chil­dren from 7 families. 

The ratio of boys to girls is about equal in each study, which is inter­est­ing because most autism stud­ies find there is a pre­pon­der­ance of boys on the spec­trum, I’m not sure about oth­er types of devel­op­men­tal delays. How­ev­er, the ratio of fam­i­lies with chil­dren who flour­ish is only half that of those fam­i­lies where one or more chil­dren isn’t flourishing. 

In the house­holds where one child has flour­ished, sub­se­quent chil­dren have too. Oth­er com­mon fac­tors in the fam­i­lies of chil­dren who flour­ish, as well as warmth of care, are: author­i­ta­tive par­ent­ing and great com­mu­ni­ca­tion between all adults involved and their chil­dren. In my expe­ri­ence those house­holds are also hos­pitable to all chil­dren – they are ‘family friendly’. 

Toys are a nat­ur­al part of any healthy house­hold but should not be the ‘be all and end all’ of children’s lives. Fam­i­lies are organ­ised; there is a bal­ance, an order, to life. Healthy and emo­tion­al­ly well-bal­anced chil­dren grow up to be more socia­ble towards fam­i­ly and friends and treat new peo­ple they meet in a friend­ly fash­ion. Their fam­i­lies are often more phys­i­cal­ly active than those with chil­dren who aren’t flour­ish­ing and the chil­dren are fre­quent­ly involved in out­door activ­i­ties with their par­ents and friends.

When a babysit­ter cares for chil­dren who are flour­ish­ing both par­ents speak clear­ly to their chi­dren before leav­ing, they reas­sure them that they are in good hands. Such par­ents also don’t hire peo­ple to care for their chil­dren who they them­selves don’t like or trust, and the par­ents show respect to the babysit­ters. They are lead­ing their fam­i­ly by example.

It is clear when deal­ing with the fam­i­lies of chil­dren who flour­ish that their par­ents know them very well – not just in the words they use but in their every­day demeanour.

It is excit­ing to see chil­dren who are flourishing!

As I said at the begin­ning of this post, I’ve stud­ied more than 20 fam­i­lies and almost 50 chil­dren over a peri­od of 30+ years, and there are marked dif­fer­ences in the deliv­ery of care to the chil­dren who flour­ish, which assures neu­rotyp­i­cal devel­op­ment in all realms.

The same fac­tors in each fam­i­ly ensure that its babies and young chil­dren thrive.

Like­wise those who aren’t flour­ish­ing have com­mon fam­i­ly dynam­ics – for anoth­er post, or you can read many of my ear­li­er posts!