Low self-esteem among teenagers has been linked to all sorts of things parents fear: smoking, eating disorders, depression. But parents are not helpless, said Dr. Elizabeth Berger, a child psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids with Character.

Low self-esteem among teenagers has been linked to all sorts of things parents fear: smoking, eating disorders, depression. But parents are not helpless, said Dr. Elizabeth Berger, a child psychiatrist and author of Raising Kids with Character.

Forget about Brit or Jamie Lynn. Don't worry about Miley Cyrus and what she wears or doesn't wear in Vanity Fair. The secret to helping your teen grow into a happy, responsible 30-year-old is fostering a relationship with your child that is characterized by qualities you already have to give: intimacy, trust, empathy, commitment, devotion and concern, Berger said.

Since May is Teen Self-Esteem Month, it's an especially good time to look at this big-picture issue. And how an adolescent feels about him or herself is really the total sum of the child's history at home, said Berger, whose children are 25 and 26.

There are some things that parents can't control - if the child has a disability or an illness, for example - that will impact self-esteem.

"But having said that, there is an enormous amount of a youngsters' feelings of himself that reflects the quality of the relations with both parents," Berger said.

At any age, being a trustworthy and empathetic listener is important, but it's especially influential during your child's adolescence. It's also important that parents realize that their child is growing up and that the relationship they had with their child is changing.

Although it can be difficult, Berger recommends that parents trust their children to make good decisions and recognize their autonomy.

"The assumption that teenagers are irresponsible is a very unhelpful assumption," she said.

Treating teens like you can't trust them, like snooping into email accounts and searching backpacks, can undermine your child's feelings of self-worth.

If they feel like no one trusts them or has faith in them, they have little to lose by acting out, she said.

"The best protection that the child has is that my parent has faith in me," Berger said. "If someone has faith in me, you have inherent value."

Adding your two cents without lecturing and then allowing your teen to make a decision and deal with the consequences helps a teen learn to make good choices, Berger said.

Your teen is, of course, not completely self-sufficient and still needs you.

"The fact is that the kid's on his own," Berger said. "But he still needs to have his hand held."

A teenager isn't an expert in handling his or her life yet, but has to anyway because he or she is too big for parents to do it.

Parents should know that despite the fact that their child is growing up and becoming responsible for his or her own decisions, parents remain very important in their children's lives. Kids well past adolescences crave the respect of their parents.

After all, that's what self-esteem is, Berger said.

"It's the footprint," she said, "of how your parents felt about you."