Melting ‘The Little Iceberg’ – a children’s story about healing through connection

Today, we share with you a children’s story, written in a beautiful book, which turns out to be much more than that.

‘The Little Iceberg’ is connected baby’s first children’s book, carefully written by Nicky Murray and stunningly illustrated by Sylvia Lynch. Since it has come out, the book has seen unexpected success within the UK and other English-speaking countries, and has been picked up by parents, professionals and schools alike.

Nicky has been a primary and head teacher in Scotland for many years. During his teaching experience, he was struck by the amount of stress and fear that children often carry, and which adults often overlook. He decided to write this story as one way to help in regaining that lost connection for children who experienced various forms of emotional trauma. Sylvia is a lifetime artist who won the competition for illustrating the book, and we absolutely love the visual world she created, embedding the story in our imaginations so vividly.

‘The Little Iceberg’ is a powerful and creative story of an iceberg and a little bird set in the middle of the Arctic ocean.

  • The floating iceberg is a metaphor for a lonely and scared child, disconnected from the (social) world it belongs to, building a protective layer of thick ice to cope with the cold and hostile surroundings, and carrying a much larger burden underneath the visible surface. No one pays attention to the iceberg as it is just one of so many others, and everyone is scared of hitting its sharp edges and thick coat of coldness, although everyone maintaining so much distance is the last thing the iceberg wants.
  • The bird is a snow bunting, characteristic of the Arctic pole by relentlessly perching on ice shelves and burrowing itself in deep snow to stay warm, communicating through the most beautiful tunes. It represents the one who reaches out, who is not scared of being rejected, who finds the courage to show fierce compassion day after day, who eventually shows the iceberg that the world is not such a lonely place, that connecting to others helps in sharing the burden, that opening up and healing are possible, that freedom and happiness are also part of this world. We do not learn about her name, nor does the iceberg, for it does not matter who the bird is; it could be anyone – true kindness knows no demographics.
  • The Arctic sets the scene in a natural world of distant and unfamiliar land of ice, of an endless, deep and cold ocean, of storms and winds, representing the harsh and hostile world that trauma-loaded children who dissociated from their social world experience on a daily basis.

Importantly, the book comes with a companion guide written by the author, Nicky Murray, and our dear friend dr. Suzanne Zeedyk, entitled ‘Making sense of trauma’. Besides explaining the scene of the story, the guide takes the reader by the hand in understanding the themes that are implied in the story, how to make the best of it in recognizing the clues and reaching out to children, how to help them cope with stress, loss and loneliness, and how to use this story as a story of healing. All the themes implied in the story (such as loneliness, horizon scanning, sensory experiences, emotional storms, breathing, trust and hope) are elaborated in the companion guide and adults are provided with small action steps that can help children in coping with trauma.

This call and motivation to learn how to listen more closely to our little ones that ‘The Little Iceberg’ puts forward is embedded in a problematic context of what we have coined as ‘adult supremacy’, a power position in which adult interests consciously or unconsciously trump child wellbeing. As adults, we are constantly making decisions for our children. This is, of course, often inevitable in raising children and guiding them in their development. Is it possible, however, that, inadvertently, we take too much advantage of this power position we have? Is it possible that we often find it truly difficult to observe and listen to what they are trying to tell us? Is it possible that they are capable of clearly knowing their needs and understanding themselves much sooner than we think as a society? Is it possible that, regularly, we are not taking them seriously when we should, underestimate them when we shouldn’t? The scientific evidence points to a complex process of interdependency between the child and the adult, where children know how to listen to us and do so extensively, and it is us who are still learning how to listen to them.

By taking our children more seriously when they are trying to tell us something or when we feel that they are hiding something, we all stand a lot to gain. By finding a way to empathically reach out to our children and to learn what is going on in their lives, we can show our love for them and make them feel safe and secure, valued and connected. By gently addressing their sadness, we validate the often impressive experience of loss. This moving story underlines once more the value of quiet presence and active listening, of knowing what to look for and how to react. A genuine interest and non-judgemental understanding of our children’s emotional life, expressed through compassion and kindness, will go a long way to make them aware of how precious they are as a human being and to support their self-confidence. This story paves a way of how to do just that.

In short, it is a book about supporting society to understand and respond to difficult emotions, about teaching children to understand their feelings and reach out to others, about helping adults recognize behavioral signs of emotional disturbances and trauma in children either as parents or as teachers, about showing a way to rebuild lost connection through compassion and kindness. We really think that this book is for everyone, for every child, parent, teacher, professional out there. Therefore, we have made it part of our mission to translate the book and bring it to the Netherlands, share it in schools, in nursery homes, in general practitioner centers, all across the relevant fields. We will keep you posted on that process.

Here is the link to more information and purchasing of ‘The Little Iceberg’.

Here are two examples of users reviewing the book:  

“What a lovely book! Illustrations are beautiful. Wonderful way of helping children through a traumatic experience and particularly loss, helping them to understand that people who care for them are there to help them through it and how they can do this. Helping them to open themselves up to receiving help. Beautifully written and produced.” 

“Thank you for this book! It spoke to me as a person who lost someone close to me without a goodbye, and also as a practitioner and a book lover. I think it will be a very valuable tool when supporting families and the children that I teach. Simply beautiful.”

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