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This month, two of my professional worlds collide. As a busy primary care pediatrician, one of my greatest joys is collaborating with parents to help children be as healthy as they can be. As the pediatric columnist for KIWI, I am fortunate to receive review copies of parenting and children’s health books. Many of these books are well intentioned but for the first time ever, I felt compelled to make one—Erica Reid’s The Thriving Child—the subject of a blog post for “The Whole Child.”  The reason? This is the rare book that truly captures spirit of parent-pediatrician collaboration in a practical, integrative guide to optimizing your child’s health.

The concept is rare but the execution is what makes The Thriving Child really stand apart. Reid, in a refreshing down-to-earth manner, weaves stories of her children’s health challenges within the framework of a manifesto for parents interested in integrative approaches to getting and keeping their kids healthy and happy. Though the book is not specifically marketed as a holistic guide, The Thriving Child is indeed the very model of an integrative approach, adopting a clear  mind-body-spirit philosophy about wellness. The first half of the book details the Reid family’s physical health journey and the second half covers the emotional and spiritual aspects of the children’s lives. I am pleased by the strong emphasis on nutrition and inclusion of various complementary and alternative therapies in the book’s health sections, as well as the emphasis on partnership for educational and emotional success in the latter chapters. Most parenting books include only conventional or holistic approaches; Reid and her team of experts seamlessly cover topics like allergies, asthma and gastrointestinal disorders in an integrative manner. Epipens and homeopathics coexist in handy first aid travel kits, and a whole-foods based nutritional approach takes center stage. At various times, probiotics, fish oil, vitamin D and acupuncture are mentioned along side conventional medical treatments. How to safely and nutritiously feed children with allergies is one of the book’s many highlights. (For more on tasty recipes for food-allergic kids, check out KIWI’s Allergy-Friendly Food for Families.)  I did not agree with every ounce of advice; for example, the sidebar on starting solids for babies lists grains like rice cereal as ideal first foods. I counsel parents to start with fruits and vegetables and to avoid processed infant cereals as first complementary foods.  But overall, I really appreciated the multidisciplinary input, bringing together experts in nutrition, medicine and education to complement Reid’s  honest, accessible stories and advice.

As I moved from the medical health half of the book to the second section, I was consistently and happily amazed at the topics presented. I felt like many of my blog pieces from the past few years were echoed in Erica’s tales.  I suppose that is one of the marks of a good writer – to help the reader feel as if the book reflected his own personal experiences. Partnering with teachers for our children’s education?  Check. The importance of spirituality in raising our children?  Check. Remarkably, it is the rare children’s health book that tackles what the author titles “Nurturing your child’s giving heart.”  I understand as a parent and a pediatrician the importance of what we Jews called “Tzedakah.”  This is why I journeyed across the world with my family to Cambodia last year to visit schools there with educators from our hometown. Reid’s concept of teaching our children to have a giving heart exactly captures the essence of “Tzedakah.”  It’s not just about charity as a generous, benevolent act—it’s simply the right thing to do; it’s about justice and fairness.

I have had the pleasure of working side-by-side with several “parent-warriors” dedicated to improving children’s lives. Reid is indeed a true mother-warrior. She takes us through the steps to green our homes, looking into cupboards and the refrigerator to detox our lives.  Throughout the book, Reid offers us her life as an example of a mother’s courage and dedication to getting her kids back to full mind-body health.  Target’s “a bullseye view” (via which I was made aware of the book) asks Reid during a book release interview, “Any advice for moms that want to create a consistent lifestyle for their kids?”  Her answer is illuminating.

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.

This quote reminds me of the Whole Child post I wrote on “Everyday Acts of Courage” profiling the daily examples of bravery I witness in my practice. Reid epitomizes these parents who will go to the ends of the earth to advocate not only for their children, but for all of our children to lead the happiest and healthiest lives possible. We are lucky to have Erica Reid’s The Thriving Child as an inspirational road map for all of us who work together to create a healthier world for our children.

Footnote

Books that feature parent-practitioner partnerships are rare.  I should know: My first book, Treatment Alternatives for Children, due out in August, is one such publication.  My co-author, Jeff Cohen, a writer and a father in my pediatric practice, worked with me to gather advice from parents and from noted child health experts. The book is vastly richer for the inclusion of these tried-and-true natural remedies from all of our contributors, especially from the real-world childhood experts… parents.

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