Jessica Alba on going to therapy with her daughter: 'I simply wanted to show up to be the best mom for my kid'

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Jessica Alba opens up about her life as a mom. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Jessica Alba opens up about her life as a mom. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child rearing.

Jessica Alba's been in the spotlight since her teens, cementing her action hero status at age 19 with her Golden Globe-nominated role on Dark Angel. But she seems to have hit her stride since becoming a mom — she and husband Cash Warren share daughters Honor, 13, and Haven, 10, and son Hayes, who turns 4 next month — thanks in large part to her co-founding of the Honest Company, the consumer goods brand whose lotions and wipes have since become nursery staples. 

It's fitting, then, that her latest campaign is also a family affair. In a new ad for Nintendo Switch, the Sin City star squeezes in some quality screen time with her daughters and her real-life dad, Mark. Ahead, she shares why her kids tease her about her "basic" gaming habits, the importance of setting rules and boundaries and why therapy helped her eldest daughter navigate a tricky time. 

How do you describe your parenting style?

I definitely like to give my kids boundaries so that they can thrive. I give them rules and boundaries, and manners are very big in the house and outside of the house. I try to keep their minds open to learn about other cultures, different people, different households. I talk to them about how there's room for all of it and there isn't one right way to do anything. You just have to know what's right for your family, and appreciate that we're not all the same.

Speaking of boundaries, is there a hard-and-fast rule you really enforce, like finishing their dinner?

I don't really care about finishing dinner. I care more about them eating their vegetables before they move on to sweets. [If they had their way] they'd probably just have only sweets [laughs]. So they need to have their vegetables, they need to drink water, they need to have nice manners. It's pretty standard.

Is your family into gaming as a way to spend time together?

I actually grew up with [it]. The first console that Nintendo came out with was, I would say, probably more prominent than even my dining room table in our house [laughs]. My dad was the major gamer. I think it was a way for him to relieve stress from work and whatnot, and that's how my brother and I would spend time with our dad. My kids also love to game, and my husband as well.

Mario Golf: Super Rush is a big one in the family — my husband, my dad, my kids, everybody likes to play it. And Just Dance 2022 is super-fun. Haven, my middle child, she's super-swaggy when she dances [laughs]. She always gets the dances down before everyone else. And I like Super Mario Brothers; my kids are always like, "Mom, you're so basic." But I do love that and I grew up playing [that].

Do you have any rules about when they can play?

We definitely have rules in the house [in terms of] when it's time to play versus when it's time to do your homework. It feels like it's basic, decent parenting. So, sure, during the school year, they have to make sure they get their homework done before they do anything else. And what I like about Nintendo Switch is it allows you to have parental controls, so you can really monitor your kid's gaming behavior and make sure it's age-appropriate, according to your family rules and standards.

You've spoken about going to therapy with your oldest daughter. Without getting too personal, what has been a major takeaway from that experience that has shaped your parenting?

It's interesting because I actually talked about it three years ago, but for some reason it resurfaced because someone asked me about it again in an interview. But I don't think it's that controversial. I think everyone's different and everyone processes information differently, and I simply wanted to show up to be the best mom for my kid, knowing she was going through [this phase]. For me, my most difficult time as a kid was transitioning from child to adult. And [dealing with] those pre-teen/teen times, because you feel like, "Wait, I feel a little more independent. I feel like I can make my own choices, but then I'm also a kid still." This in-between time can be a little bit confusing.

Who do you turn to for parenting advice?

What's interesting about being a parent of multiple kids is that they are so very different, and whatever works with one kid certainly does not work with the other kids. So that's a fun lesson to learn in the moment. Even when they're babies, they're all so different. 

I just call my friends and I just try to work off of my intuition or my gut. And if I hit a wall as a parent, I just say, like, "Hey, I keep running into this pattern. Like, my kid doesn't really care about this, or that used to work, or it worked with another kid." And you just sort of take in the information and try stuff and see what works and see how the kid responds. But, you know, they're all humans and relatively reasonable. As long as they're fed and they have their sleep and they're not tired, you can kind of navigate parenthood. I find that if those basic needs aren't being met, it's hard to do anything in a healthy way. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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