The School Counselor's Role in Supporting Teen Moms with Career Development
by Mary-Beth Muskin
Imagine that a 16 year old sits in your office and says, "I'm pregnant, the guy doesn't want anything to do with me but, I want to keep the baby." The student states that she wants to finish school and pursue a career as a nurse but guesses she'll have to raise her kid now. The counselor wants the student to finish school and continue with her plan for herself beyond the birth of her baby. To be effective, however, the school counselor must address issues that extend beyond the traditional career matching approach.
The Role of the School Counseling Program
The purpose of the school counseling program is to impact specific skills and learning opportunities in a proactive, preventative manner, ensuring all students can achieve school success through academic, career and personal/social development experiences!(The ASCA National Model 2003)
A teen parent program that is part of a counseling program based on a Comprehensive Competency Based Guidance (CCBG) Program or the National Model with the support of the counseling department is the foundation allowing counselors working with the Teen Parent Program. Intentional classroom guidance lessons should focus on the special concerns of teen parents, and include small group discussions opportunities and link available resources of the school and the community. Specifically school counselors should focus on efforts that foster healthy attitudes, provide appropriate information including child rearing support and career development.
Myrick (1995) argues that in this culture adolescent childbearing is viewed by some as a career choice. It is important for the teen mom to develop career goals beyond parenting.
They need to learn what their strengths and weaknesses are and how to apply that information to the development of career goals. The completion of a career inventory can assist the student with the identification of realistic goals.
The results of career inventories can enable the student and counselor to have a candid discussion about the student's strengths allowing the student to proceed with identification and development of:
- more realistic goals
- an effective resume
- specification of a written plan on how the student should proceed
- development of realistic time lines
- establishment of funding and community support for work or continued education
- identification of real and perceived barriers, as well as strategies to remove these barriers.
These issues impact each other. For example, low self esteem will impact the way the teen mom sees herself, her child and her career options. Role overload can cause stress, which then impacts her relationship with others and her ability to be successful.
Helping teen moms develop and maintain healthy attitudes, as well as providing information and child rearing support are important activities of the school counselor. Intentional guidance lessons should address issues of self-esteem, stress management, identifying career and educational goals, and then specifying steps to take to remove those barriers assisting the student in moving toward their goals. Other lesson plans might address the dual role of student and parent, pre and post-natal care labor and delivery information, healthy eating and handling the stress of parenting. School counselors might use small group discussions about career issues, but also other important issues such as child development, normal childhood illness, discipline, and education coupled with journaling to provide teen moms with the opportunity to explore their beliefs about childrearing and share their feelings and learning from the perspective of others.
Through the support of school counselors, teen mothers can reestablish dreams and learn appropriate parenting skills enabling them to be successful as they set attainable career goals and make plans beyond the birth of their child and high school. Through the support of school counselors, school programs, and school resources teen mothers are better able to become role models for their children and productive members of their communities.
Bowers, J., Hatch, T., et. al. (2003). The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling. American School Counseling Association.
Bucuvalas, A. (November 2002). Understanding the "Self"of a Pregnant Teen An Interview with Wendy Luttrell. HGSE News (Harvard Graduate School of Education. Http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/features/littrell11012002.html
Muskin, M. B. (Spring 2004). The need for comprehensive competency based career guidance curriculum for teen mothers. Educational Considerations XXXI. 2. 41-45.
Muskin, M. B. (Spring 2004). Comprehensive competency based guidance curriculum for teen mothers. National Social Science Journal. 22. 1. 87-92.
Myrick,R. (1987). Developmental Guidance and Counseling: A Practical Approach, Educational Media Corporation, 31-50.
Mary-Beth Muskin, PhD, NCC, is an Assistant Professor in counselor education at Creighton University. She resides in Omaha, Nebraska. Her interests include counseling and career development and curriculum development and working with diverse populations. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org