Stop Intrusive Thoughts in Their Track: Strategies for Children with Trauma

The January 2024 Childhood Trauma Newsletter – by Beth Tyson, MA

Photo by Glenna Haug on Unsplash


Hi Trauma Champion,

Welcome to the January 2024 Childhood Trauma Newsletter. If you make time to read this newsletter I am so proud of you! Helping children heal from trauma is the most important work we can do in 2024.

This month, it was put on my heart to share strategies to help children cope with intrusive thoughts. If your child has an active imagination it’s likely they are experiencing some intrusive thoughts that could be increasing their anxiety.

Intrusive thoughts are unwelcome and distressing ideas, images, or impulses that enter an individual’s mind involuntarily. Children, like adults, can experience intrusive thoughts. It’s important to note that occasional intrusive thoughts are a normal part of human experience, but persistent or distressing thoughts may require attention. Here are some common types of intrusive thoughts that children may experience:

Fear-based thoughts:

Aggressive thoughts:

Inappropriate thoughts:

Perfectionistic thoughts:

Magical thinking:

Religious or blasphemous thoughts:

Unwanted memories:

Health-related thoughts:

Intrusive thoughts are more common in children who have experienced trauma, loss, and abuse. They may have intrusive thoughts as a way of processing or attempting to make sense of their experiences.

I know so many children (and adults) are silently suffering with these 💩 thoughts, and it’s high time we make the unmentionable, mentionable!

For people who feel safe in their bodies, intrusive thoughts are just mental noise they can easily forget about. But, those people with a hyper-alert nervous system will tend to overestimate the power of disturbing thoughts, assigning meaning that doesn’t belong! The meaning they assign to the thoughts causes a lot of anxiety and uncomfortable feelings in their body.

When a thought creates anxiety, we typically try to suppress the thought. This makes total sense because avoidance is our instinctual reaction to fear as humans.

However, suppression only causes more scary thoughts to arise. It’s like if I tell my child they can’t eat chocolate, and then all they can think about is chocolate. (I might know from experience.)

Stopping Intrusive Thoughts in Children

Normalizing intrusive thoughts will be enough for some children. Others will need more help, and that’s normal too. Please note that the above guidance is for educational purposes only. Every child will have different strategies that work and don’t work.

Various forms of evidence-based exposure therapy are typically effective at reducing intrusive thoughts and anxiety. 

It’s important to recognize that experiencing intrusive thoughts doesn’t necessarily indicate a mental health disorder. However, if these thoughts persist, cause significant distress, or interfere with a child’s daily life, it may be beneficial to seek guidance from a mental health professional. A trained therapist or counselor can help assess the situation and provide appropriate support and strategies for managing intrusive thoughts in children.

Always seek therapy with a licensed mental health provider if your child’s anxiety is interfering with their ability to learn, love, and/or play. I promise things can get better. 

To learn more about helping people cope with anxiety, trauma, and loss subscribe to this free newsletter at

Resource of the Month:

A free assessment tool for childhood trauma!

From their website:

“Children form their sense of self in the context of their relationships. When these relationships are unsafe or threatening, children’s nervous systems can become reactive. If trauma can be assessed and intervened initially from a biological perspective rather than a behavioural one, we can settle the same states of arousal that inhibit children from engaging in relationships that can be a resource for their healing.”

The Trauma Expression and Connection Assessment (TECA) – A new tool to support healing and connection – Australian Childhood Foundation Professionals


What’s New at Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting?

On April 23 & 24, I will present at the Pennsylvania CASA Conference on childhood trauma and loss. As a CASA volunteer and a member of the advisory board in Delaware County (formally known as Delco), I am so excited for this opportunity, and honored to be a presenter at this yearly event! Registration is open, and if you are going, let’s plan to meet up. Register HERE.

For the past five years, I’ve advocated for the well-being of two children in the foster care system as a CASA volunteer, and it was a life-changing experience for all of us. If you are interested in getting involved or want to know more about what it’s like to be a CASA volunteer, please reach out to me for more information. If you don’t have time to volunteer but would like to donate to this cause, you can do so HERE.



Coming Soon: Sullivan Goes to See Mama

I took a much-needed break from work in December to spend time with my family and enjoy the holiday season. I also continued writing and editing my 2nd children’s book, Sullivan Goes to See Mama: A story to help children cope with supervised visitation. This new book is a sequel to my first book, A Grandfamily for Sullivan, but can also stand alone.

Thank you for weighing in on social media about what I should name this new book. Your ideas helped me come to the final decision, and I can’t thank you enough!

While writing the story, I learned that many children in kinship or foster care don’t like the word “visit” in reference to their time with biological parents. Out of respect for those children, I decided not to use the word visit in my book. The book is a tool for children required to attend supervised visits with their biological family due to safety issues.

Other exciting news! I added a new character to the plot, and her name is Evelynne. She is the visit supervisor who ensures Sullivan has fun on his visit. Check her out! 

Free Webinar: Helping Kinship Families Cope with Ambiguous Loss

Please SAVE YOUR SPOT for my next free webinar for kinship families! It will take place:

Tuesday, January 16th, 2024

11:30-12:30 PM EST. 

There are only about 15 spots left. So don’t miss out!

It is sponsored by Kinship Caregivers Connect, a non-profit founded by Angela Tobin in Ohio. If you know a grandparent raising their grandchildren, please share the registration link with them. 



Playing Now: Season 2 of All Connected – A Place for Belonging

I am one of the co-creators of All Connected: A Place for Belonging, a short-form animated series built for those who have experienced childhood trauma. This free series aims to educate viewers on how the brain works, how trauma impacts the mind/body and our relationships, and how healthy coping strategies and positive support networks can help us recover from traumatic experiences. 

A few of the topics covered in Season 2:

If you are creating content, training, programs, or projects that need evidence-based information on children’s mental health and childhood trauma, please CONTACT ME.



Quote of the Month

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Positive News from the Field of Mental Health

This newsletter has grown to over 30K subscribers who want to learn about trauma-informed care. Would you like the opportunity to be featured in this newsletter? If so, please CONTACT ME.



More Resources by Beth Tyson Trauma Consulting

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With hope, grief, and love,


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