Love Letter to the Drifting Child

By Sara Zacuto

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”
~Brene Brown


Last week in our team meeting we spoke about a child who is drifting. We spoke not with a sense of alarm, but a desire to know more about who she is and what she might need. She had just transitioned over from our younger classroom to our older one, her brother had moved on to kindergarten, and although she was familiar with the teachers and kids, she still seemed disconnected…adrift.

As I thought about this particular child, other children started to come to mind. The children who are brand new here, the children whose friends have gone over to the older classroom while they stayed in the younger one, the children who are missing their families and the ones who have seen their friendships shift over the Summer break. They are all drifting in this new routine, waiting to be anchored by connection.

While I believe these children to be vulnerable, I also believe in their innate ability to establish new and meaningful relationships. And like anything else, that takes time. These children are in a very particular phase of the school year where they are closely observing and adjusting to the unique dynamics of the classroom, and becoming familiar with the routines being put in place. I see them looking. I see them feeling things out, holding hands with someone new, glancing into lots of new faces, some friendly, some not. I see them navigating through the day reaching out for understanding or validation, and occasionally retreating to be alone and process all their feelings.

The following is my love letter to these children, written from the perspective of the teachers:

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Dear, Sweet Drifter,

We know the world is floating all around you now, and feeling so big.

We know so many eyes are looking at you, and asking you to do so much.

We know you want to be home, with your Mama, or your Daddy and be held tight.

We know everything is different, strange, loud, and a little scary.

This place, and all the people here, want to know you better and bend ourselves to hold you up.

We see you. We hear you.

And we want you to know…

You belong here.

We get up in the morning and wonder what you’ll do today.

We plan all our days with you in mind.

We want to watch you play, and invent, grow and laugh.

We need your ideas and your voice.

We will write down your words, and hang up your work, and tell your story long after you go.

We will be close and sit with you when you are sad, or hurt, or angry.

We will always listen and always want to hear more about who you are, and who you want to become.

We want to learn about the world with you, marvel together, and sit quietly with you when it all feels like too much.

We are here.

We see you.

All our love,

Your Teachers


Our school is a special place, but sadness and disappointment live here too. The children who haven’t quite figured out where they belong just yet are part of the big puzzle that is constantly changing, the puzzle that teachers are always looking at and thinking…

Where do they fit?

How can they connect?

What can we do to support them?

But underneath it all there is trust…trust in the child to overcome, to be vulnerable and authentic, to cope with big feelings and reach out for help if they need it…trust in the child to make friends and return to joy.



Transitions are almost always signs of growth, but they can bring feelings of loss. To get somewhere new, we may have to leave somewhere else behind.

— Fred Rogers





6 thoughts on “Love Letter to the Drifting Child

  1. This brought tears to my eyes! Not necessarily tears of sadness (although some empathy-induced), but tears from knowing that you are ‘seeing’ all of our little ones who show up and let themselves be seen. And that is what brings the happy tears!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Blessed are we that our children get to be themselves in this safe place. Where all feelings matter. We are right where we belong. Thank you Sara for your reflection on the new school year and the emotions that come into play. ❤️ I appreciate your words.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my what a lovely testament of what and how childcare providers approach their children. A soft and loving reminder of what children are experiencing. Thank you Sara! I look forward to more of your blogs❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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