We like to think of childhood as a carefree time, devoid of the stresses and worries that come with adult responsibilities. As parents, we try our hardest to minimize adversity for our children, but no matter how hard we try, there are times when we can’t fix their circumstances. Instead, we teach our children to endure and to handle their circumstances with “grit and gratitude.”
When Greenville native and pastor Laura Bratton was 9 years old, she was diagnosed with a progressive eye disease that would eventually lead to blindness. During her teenage years, while her peers were worried about finding a prom date or passing a test, Bratton was slowly losing her vision.
“I realized I had a choice,” she said. “I could be bitter and negative or I could focus on what I was grateful for. I was not grateful for my vision loss, but I was grateful for the people, my family and community who helped me through it.”
Today, Bratton is the pastor of Laurens Road United Methodist Church and founder of Ubi Global, a speaking and coaching organization that serves people who are overcoming traumatic situations. She has written a book “Harnessing Courage: Overcoming Adversity With Grit and Gratitude.” She shared with us ways her parents helped her accept her situation and live life courageously and ways that we can harness our own courage and provide hope for our children in every situation.
Model gratitude. If our children are going to live lives of gratitude, they must see it from us first. She suggests having intentional practices to cultivate gratitude in our own lives.
“Gratitude is not our default,” she said. “We don’t automatically go there in the midst of trauma and loss.”
For this reason, she says it is important to practice gratitude on a daily basis.
“If we already practice gratitude, it will be easier in difficult times to fall back on the practice. For some people, that might be going out into nature and taking the time to appreciate it,” she said. “Others may want to send a thank you note or email once a day or keep a gratitude journal. The specific practice is not important. It is important that you have a practice.”
Be your child’s strongest advocate. Sometimes, said Bratton, it is important to be the grit for others. “Be compassionate,” she said. “Be the voice of encouragement, hope and strength.” Bratton’s parents provided the emotional support that she needed, but they also ensured she receive the physical support needed. “They researched and found the accommodations that I would need,” she said. “I would advise parents to advocate for their children, whatever the situation might be.”
Continue to hold children to high standards. “When I was first losing my sight, my parents continued to hold me to the same standards as my brother,” Bratton said. “They didn't take away my chores at home or treat me any differently.”
In order to thrive in spite of difficult situations, Bratton says one must develop both grit and gratitude.
“I deeply needed both,” she said. “They intersect and balance with each other. I needed perseverance and tenacity to endure, but I deeply needed gratitude to remain appreciative of the situation around me.”