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Helping Teens Discover Themselves – Tina Toler-Keel

Were your children and other teens involved in the process at all? Did you ask them for feedback as you wrote, or did it evolve directly from your experiences from watching, talking and living with them?

My two oldest kids were definitely involved. They read each story, helped me format the order of the sections, etc. They were invaluable. Also, my three oldest and a few of their friends were the models for the pictures inside the book as well as the cover. It was a lot of fun working with them on such a big and important project.

The story ideas came from things my kids have gone through. They have definitely questioned their faith and God, and I used that as a guideline. I also watched other teens and used their questions and situations. Looking at their lives, I studied each thing and picked the most popular and most important issues to discuss. I also took stories from my own life as a teen as well as things my friends went through years ago. It is really a collaboration of stories.

I was raised believing if I did anything wrong I was going to hell. I lived in fear of that and could never relax or enjoy myself. I want kids to know that yes, they will mess up, but that doesn’t mean they are doomed. God is still there and He still cares. He isn’t going to turn His back on them because they don’t use good judgment occasionally

It’s not just a book, it’s comes with a study component that teens can work with as they read.  Why did you add it and how does that work along with reading the book?

When I was a teen, I had a great devotion workbook that I wrote in all the time. It helped me question myself and grow closer to God. I have looked for something similar for myself and my kids, and haven’t found what I am looking for. I wanted to give teens a way to really explore who they are, what their values are, what they believe in. I want them to find out more about themselves without pushing anything on them. The questions are about the stories in the book and what they got out of them. There is not an answer key because the answers are not right or wrong or black or white. It isn’t a study guide to see if you got the right message. It’s a workbook to see what you got out of it. Everyone will have different answers. You may agree with something, or you may not. In the study guide, you not only decide if you agree and how your feel, but explore why you feel that way. Teens are often discouraged to explore their own mind and soul and I feel that is taking so much from them. I want them to find faith for themselves, not because someone tells them they have to. I want them to know why they feel the way they do, why they believe something to be true or not true. I want them to really explore their hearts and really think about God.