My daughter and I are very close, although we have had our moments. When she was eleven, being seen with me in public was worse than coming out of the loo with toilet roll stuck to your shoe. She now admits that was a stage, and there’s a lot less eye rolling when I speak to her friends.
I can pretty much date the improvement in our relationship to the time I started working at the Good Spa Guide: having a mum who's a Spa Spy is apparently pretty cool, especially when she takes her teen along on a spa review.
She was 16 when I took her to her first spa. Now she is 18 and heading to spas with her friends; a veritable seasoned spa-ista. On our travels from spa to spa, she has taught, or rather reminded, me of the things you worry about when young – things I couldn’t care less about now I’m longer in the tooth.
For example: younger teens can be painfully body conscious, so wearing a swimsuit in public is not always a relaxing experience. Neither is having a stranger massage you (whereas I can’t think of anything more pleasurable!).
Over our various spa excursions, we have worked out and created my teen’s idea of a perfect spa day.
Sweat over steam:
My teen isn’t particularly sporty, but like a lot of millennials she is interested in health and wellbeing; far more than my hedonistic generation. When she goes with a group of friends, she is more into the pampering experience. But sitting in a Jacuzzi making conversation with mum? Maybe when she’s a bit older…
So, why not swap wet facilities for an exercise class? Or go to a spa that also does activities such as horse riding or biking.
Recently, we went to Bannatyne Kingsford Park in Colchester, which has a rather glam spa attached to an established health club. On arrival, I did a gentle yoga class while my teen joined a High Impact exercise class, then we met after to relax our muscles in the whirlpool.
The other thing my teen loves is beauty products and any opportunity to try or learn about them. She loved her Elemis Skin Lab at Kingsford Park. A beauty therapist performs a 3D skin mapping analysis and goes through your results. You don’t have to buy anything, but at least you understand more about your skin.
My daughter, who is studying chemistry and biology, was impressed with her therapist’s scientific knowledge, so she immediately went up in her estimation. She learned that the best thing you can do for young skin is wear UV protection - wise advice and better coming from a beauty therapist than your mum.
I thought massages would help my teen relax and get more in touch with her body. She felt the opposite, especially when the therapist rolled down her pants for the back massage, which they often do. Manicures are usually a safe bet, but now my teen has discovered facials (although check there is no body massage involved: head and shoulder massages are often included). More brands have products that work for young skin: the anti-ageing market has dominated for so long, but ingredients that plump and fill can be over-stimulating causing break-outs.
I feel it is worth having a discussion beforehand about what she likes and doesn’t like. It is not always possible to talk to your teen's therapist, plus it’s awkward to speak in front of other waiting guests – she would only be embarrassed that I am drawing attention to her. It might be worth having a quiet word with the spa manager on arrival: some teens are too self-conscious to share their stuff with total strangers, however nice, and will just suffer in silence.
I feel it’s an important thing to get right: I don’t want her to be put off spas, but at the same time I want her to feel empowered and able to speak. More therapists need to be trained to work with young adults, especially as they are often YAs themselves.
My daughter’s favourite treatment so far: the Jennifer Young facial at Ragdale Hall. Jennifer Young products are great for sensitive skin – they are often used in the treatment of cancer – and a good idea if you want your YA to understand pure beauty.
I was surprised when my teen voluntarily left her phone in the lockers as I imagined having to wrestle it from her grasp. Instead, she either nicked my book or simply went to sleep. My teen may be a ball of anxiety in some situations, but she is much better at totally switching off and relaxing than her mum. If anything, it was me who had to be convinced to put my phone away.
Teens – and some adults - can become quite anxious when separated from their devices, especially when there’s a boy on the scene or a drama amongst friends playing out on WhatsApp. If it were an issue, I would say that phones aren’t allowed in spas, so deal with it.
Your YA is an adult, but still your child. Follow their lead, let them be the grown up and make their own decisions about what they want to do on their spa day. Just be careful when they take you in the spa shop after and make the big eyes at you...
16th May 2018
Clever, inspiring design, sublime views, a vast, clean and empty pool, solitary relaxation areas to read, write or commune with my muse.
Small talk, discussions about spirituality or astrology, any products containing tea tree oil or aloe (sadly am allergic), busy pools where you can’t do laps.
Behind the scenes