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We can only imagine that celebrity moms have access to parenting experts that the rest of us don't. But now, the mom and author whose parenting advice inspires Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, is sharing her wisdom with the rest of us. In her new book The Thriving Child, Erica Reid, a former school teacher, mom of two and wife of record executive L.A. Reid, offers tips and advice on everything from dealing with kids' food allergies and asthma to nurturing creativity.
"Having the objective eye of another mother can sometimes be the light you need to see clearly in the moments of uncertainty that arise on this motherhood journey," Jennifer Lopez writes in the forward to the book. "This has proven priceless to me. I can truly say that Erica is one of the most inspiring mothers I know."
Reid, mom to Addison and Arianna, has plenty of firsthand experience overcoming parenting challenges: Both of her children suffer from food allergies and Addison is allergic to more than a dozen foods, including black pepper, vanilla, cinnamon and wheat. But Reid found ways to help her family thrive in spite of these hurdles -- and your family can, too. We love her tips below for dealing with food allergies; check out The Thriving Child for more hands-on parenting tips and tricks.
Trust your intuition. Moms sometimes have a sixth sense about their kids' health and well-being; ignoring it can put your child at risk. Reid once sent her allergic-to-dairy son to an ice cream shop with friends -- along with strict instructions that he could only have sorbet -- despite her nagging doubts. Eventually, she trusted her gut and rushed to the ice cream shop, only to find her son in the beginning stages of an allergic reaction from eating ice cream.
Look for subtle signs of allergies. Most parents picture hives, itching and difficulty breathing when they think of an allergic reaction. But if allergies run in your family, be alert for less dramatic signs, such as sneezing, coughing, an itchy throat, headache, skin rash or eczema. If you notice any of these symptoms after your child eats a food, notify your doc.
Empower your child. You can only micro-manage your child's diet for so long. Eventually, he's going to venture out into the world, and he has to know how to stay safe. "My son knows not to eat or drink anything at a playdate, party, or at school, and he knows to ask if a food is okay for him if he's never eaten it before or it he is unaware or unsure he's had it before," Reid writes. Older kids can be taught how to read labels and to ask how foods have been prepared.
Be prepared with supplies. Better safe than sorry: Reid always travels with Epi-pens, Benadryl and albuterol -- all potentially life-saving meds. She also always carries safe-for-her-kids food. (Did you know that you can get liquid-y foods like applesauce and soy yogurt through airport security if you carry a signed note from your child's pediatrician or allergist?)
Educate others. Many people underestimate food allergies. So talk to your child's caregivers and explain the severity of his allergies. Be sure to talk to other parents, too. "Because of Addison's extensive list of allergies, I tell [other] parents not to give him anything -- no food, no drinks, no gum or candy," Reid writes. "I can't assume [the mom] will be able to figure out what foods not to give my child. So I make it easier for her and for Addison by simply saying, 'Don’t give him anything.' Then I pack him a snack and a drink."
Give teachers and daycare providers a supply of safe treats. Reid sends a stash of allergy-safe sweets to school so that her son's teacher can offer him a safe alternative when classmates bring birthday or holiday treats.