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The Flip Side

Authentic Relationships with Parents Strongly Influence Teens

Parents are acutely aware that adolescence is a time when peer groups rise in influence. What can be harder to see in the tumult of day-to-day life is that a parent’s word also carries weight with teens—even if the teens are reticent to admit it. Repeatedly, studies show that the opinions of parents figure prominently in children’s decisions about a wide variety of behaviors, ranging from drug and alcohol use to school engagement. At The Bertram Group, we see this phenomenon at work through the process of educational planning. Parent-child relationships are the foundation of setting goals that can only be accomplished through the efforts of the entire family.

As professionals, and in our own personal lives, we are also aware of how contemporary parents are showered with advice for how to maintain and exercise the strength of parental bonds. The principle of authenticity is one way of knitting many threads of wisdom together seamlessly. Modern society offers many distractions through the constant stimulation of technology, the pressures of demanding careers, the logistics of family life, and the high standards set for personal achievement. People navigate this world, however, using the same psychological wiring that humans have had for thousands of years. Authenticity helps people form the deep, interpersonal relationships needed to balance competing agendas and maintain equilibrium.

Teenagers are consummate masters at sniffing out when a communication or initiative is it not truly grounded. Deep down, they recognize hollow praise that overstates their accomplishments. They notice when adults prioritize replying to an email over one-to-one conversation. They can tell when adults don’t believe enough in their abilities to take constructive risks or to solve problems on their own. This interview with Tim Elmore, author and expert on nurturing youth leaders, offers specific tips that all relate back to the core principle of authenticity. Keeping words and actions genuine cultivates trust and dependability, creating strong relationships that allow parents to share invaluable guidance in a way that emerging adults can hear.

Every day I am inspired by the authenticity that we see in the relationships of Bertram families. Even when families are overcoming various hurdles of life, we witness them reaching back to the bedrock relationship of loving parent and child. Our very process encourages young adults to examine the foundations of character, what they cherish about themselves, and what values they have learned from their parents. It is a pleasure to see how the strength of these parent-child relationships gives young adults a sense of self, security, and the guidance they need to stretch their wings in the wide world.

Cammie Bertram, founder and president of The Bertram Group, is highly respected within the educational community for her dedication to helping families accomplish their educational goals. She has more than twenty years of assisting students through both traditional and therapeutic advising at junior, secondary school, and college levels. She can be reached at