Being a parent or caregiver is hard—no huge revelation there. But add allergies, asthma and the everyday challenges of 21st century living (does “stop texting at the dinner table!” sound all too familiar?) to the mix, and raising a healthy child can seem like a daunting task.
After watching her two children suffer from food allergies and skin conditions, and enduring countless doctor visits and medications, Erica Reid rebooted her family’s entire New York lifestyle—from what they ate and wore to what they brought into their home.
A former teacher, devoted mother and wife of record executive Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Erica began on a journey to help her kids, Arianna and Addison, thrive—both physically and emotionally. Along the way, she schooled herself in every area of healthy living and (thankfully) wrote it all down as a guide for other parents. Erica’s new book The Thriving Child (in stores May 8) chronicles the road from hurting to healthy with tips from top experts in medicine, nutrition and education, along with insights from celebrity moms.
Below, we chat with the busy mom about keeping kids humble and healthy and staying sane through it all.
Are you excited about the book?
Erica Reid: I’ve been blown away because all I wanted to do was share my journey and hope someone found it helpful. I’m happy my family could be the guinea pigs!
Did you always want to write a book?
ER: I just started purging and the next thing you know, I sent it to someone and they said “you’re not doing this without me!” When I realized the valuable lessons that my children and I learned during our journey, and all the research that went with it, I knew I had to share it. I just thought there had to be other kids and families that could absolutely use a book like this.
What do you want people to take away from the book?
ER: Knowledge. I want people to come out open minded, because the entire book is full of life experiences and so much insightful information from experts.
When and why did you decide to detox your children’s diet?
ER: After months of frustration. I was going to doctors over and over again with my kids. We’d get prescription after prescription—always topical steroid creams. The medicines would work and the irritations did go away, but not forever. It was a repeated cycle. I was going around in circles until I decided I had to tackle this [their allergies] in a way I hadn’t done yet.
What does your grocery list look like now?
ER: I shop completely differently than before. I read ingredients and get less packaged food. I used to stock up on everything that came in a bag, can or box. Now, I’m very conscious of my cart and really see what it looks like. Our grocery carts say a lot about us!
Do you cook more now?
ER: You’re speaking to someone who hated the kitchen. I did not like it at all, and I don’t think the kitchen liked me. But once we realized the food allergy limitations, I had to start experimenting. I don’t limit myself in the kitchen and will tweak a lot of recipes for our family’s specific needs. I’m not saying the first batch always comes out great, but you can make it work.
Your book has advice from other celeb moms. Whom did you look to for help?
ER: I wanted to look for a variety of women and voices that could touch many of us. Bobbi Brown, this powerhouse woman who has a very successful makeup line, sees beauty in a different way than most people. Makeup can send an empowering message to women and young girls out there, so I wanted to include her in creating that thriving child. I also reached out to Melissa Etheridge. As a cancer survivor with children of her own, I wanted her to share any advice she had. And then you have Holly Robinson Peete, who has an autistic child. Different women with different parenting stories that we can all learn from.
Any advice for moms that want to create a consistent lifestyle for their kids?
ER: Celeb mom or not—do not beat yourself up! Children are here to teach us things. Just do the best you can. In terms of nutrition, if you’re somewhere where you can’t give your kids the “perfect” meal or snack, remember it’s okay! You can make up for it when you’re home. I try to make our home the place where our kids receive a well-balanced meal 90 percent of the time. That way, I don’t freak out if we’re at a friend’s party and there aren’t many healthy food options or if they have a Shirley Temple when we’re out to dinner. Find the balance and find what works for you.
Has it been hard to keep your kids humble in the 21st century lifestyle?
ER: It can absolutely be challenging, especially in this world of technology. I remind my children that things aren’t just given to you in life. They do chores, get an allowance and have to work for what they want. Then they can make the decision to share it, save it or spend it—the three S’s. I always tell them to try and share something first, so my kids will often ask me to donate things before they get a new toy or a new something.
What do you do for you?
ER: I’m still learning about me; it’s a never-ending journey. I always try to start my mornings alone—praying, meditating, reading—whatever. When I’m not with the kids, I try to go for walks, movies or hang with a girlfriend or be with my husband. I need time for me. As a mom, I need that clarity.
Pre-order The Thriving Child at Target and Target.com