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A Family Afar: Taking Your Teens on a Wellness Retreat

How a wellness boot camp helped our travel-blogger dad communicate better with his teenage daughters


Illustration by Daniel Zalkus

With two teen girls in the house, things can get rocky between us all. There’s plenty of love here, but the rites of passage for kids this age seem to include extraordinarily volatile and unpredictable behavior—even about everyday things like cleaning their rooms and doing their own laundry. At times the tension feels palpable, and we’ve been searching for ways to reconnect and negotiate a (somewhat) peaceful coexistence. Maybe some time away together would help, we thought.

Recently the girls have spurred a focus on healthy habits by becoming vegetarians, and we’ve been adjusting to a half-herbivore/half-omnivore household and a strangely separated refrigerator. We’ve been working out together at the gym, talking about the balance of mind and body, and considering yoga classes the girls won’t deem too woo-woo. And still, the tension has persisted.

To welcome balance in our lives and relax before the challenges of a new school year, we planned a family wellness retreat at Terranea Resort & Spa in Rancho Palos Verdes. Perched right on the ocean with views for days, we hoped the salt air and warm sun would put us in the right frame of mind.

From our first step on the property, the tone was set. We were shown to our rooms overlooking the pool, ocean, beach cliffs and beyond. We stood on the balcony for a few moments and just breathed in the clean air. Already feeling the stress from the drive up the 405 easing out of our tense muscles, we changed for dinner and walked down to eat poolside at the spa restaurant. We sat at the table for at least two hours laughing, talking, and savoring our healthy meal of mostly vegetarian dishes. (I ordered a steak, but it was a small, lean cut.) The healthy eating theme continued throughout our stay, where we made intentional choices to order natural, fresh foods. And there were a few surprises, like falling in love with cold muesli for breakfast, and some tasty juice blends like wheatgrass-beet-kale-carrot-apple-lemon-ginger.

Rousting the girls from bed at 7:30 the next morning, we headed to a group yoga class overlooking the ocean. There was more than a little grumbling on their part, matched with an eye roll or three about having to do yoga as a family. Turns out the girls were naturals, contorting their bodies effortlessly while their parents struggled to downward dog. As Triton and I trembled in warrior pose, I heard at least one snicker in the room that may or may not have been from our girls. Still, we all felt great afterward and had a good laugh about the kids being much better at something than their parents.

We spent some quality sun time at the pool together. Now that they’re teens, we’ve graduated from the kiddie pool and could sit peacefully at Terranea’s Quiet Pool without screams and splashes. (It helps that in our family, phones are not allowed at the pool or at meal time.)

From there we walked down to the beach to try something new: archery lessons. Padding across the sand, we were greeted by an instructor who guided us through the proper use of bow and arrow. I am no Katniss Everdeen and neither is Sophia; Ava showed us up with decent scores and straight arrows, but the ringer turned out to be Triton, who’d never held a bow in his life yet hit a bull’s-eye every single time. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, he’s our guy.

Rested and refreshed, we drove back to San Diego hoping some of this magic would stick. And so far, so good. We’re more intentional about the food we eat. We’ve had genuine laughs, managed difficult conversations with aplomb, and avoided most of the tense standoffs we’ve had too many of recently. Things aren’t perfect in our family dynamic, but they are better. I’ll take better any day.

Jon Bailey writes the travel blog 2dadswithbaggage.com.

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