Your ‘little’ boy’s voice is cracking — one of puberty’s surest signs that he is growing up. Worried how he will handle this confusing phase of life? Here’s a detailed perspective.
By Dr Manohar Shaan
If you have sons, their mischief and boundless energy aren’t the only things you must contend with as they enter their teens. A lot of physiological changes also happen during this period. Change of voice is one of them. This usually begins at around nine years and goes on until the child turns 14. (However, if your child’s voice starts changing well before he is nine years old, it is better to consult a doctor). It usually takes from a few weeks to three months for a boy’s voice to settle into its adult form. To help your son cope with this change, you need an in-depth understanding of this phenomenon.
Also Read: Healthy Eating For Teens: Diet Plan For Teenage Boys And Girls
To begin with, you need to understand the functioning of the voice box, an organ called the larynx in medical terms. The way a person’s voice changes depends on the larynx, which is present in the front part of the throat. Two vocal cords stretch across the larynx. They vibrate like the strings of a guitar to produce sound. However, the larynx does not contribute to the distinctive voice quality of individuals. The structure of areas like the throat, nose and sinuses vary from person to person. These areas act as resonating chambers, contributing to the unique characteristics of one’s voice.
The onset of voice change:
During this stage of life, as the facial bones grow, the nose, sinuses and throat become bigger. The voice box becomes bigger, the vocal cords thicken, and the resonance of the voice changes to a deeper tone. The larynx growing larger results in it protruding as the ‘Adam’s Apple’. While these changes are in progress, the boy's voice can break or crack.
Though this phase is a part of puberty, you should be aware that in some cases, your son’s voice may not change even after puberty. There can be many triggers for this, the primary ones being emotional stress and delayed development of secondary sexual characteristics. Psychological causes like hero worship of an older boy, or excessive maternal protection (where the boy imitates the mother) can also delay a boy’s voice change. However, the condition doesn’t imply any anatomical defect in the voice box. The process of voice change rarely gets hampered due to the dysfunction of the voice box.
Watch out for these signs:
Seek help, if needed. Most cases can be treated with voice/speech therapy. A few sessions will usually sort out the problem.
Helping your child deal with voice change
Your teen is likely to go through a period of stress and embarrassment if he is not prepared for the ‘inevitable’ change. Voice change can lead to peer bullying, which lowers the child’s self-esteem. If the development is delayed, the so-called ‘girlish’ voice may prompt him to have doubts about his sexuality and can become a trigger for being ridiculed by other children.
As parents, you too are likely to worry about the natural progression of your son’s voice. This worry can impact your behaviour towards the child, and in turn, affect his psyche. Therefore, be aware of all that your son is going through during this phase to make the transition smooth. Most importantly, talk to him about the changes that puberty brings. The best time for such conversations is before the onset of puberty. Make sure you talk about one bodily change at a time — do not bombard your child with information about all the changes at one go. Explain to him that the process is normal, and all boys go through it. Assure the child that his voice will settle down at the right time.
1. How does voice change affect boys psychologically?
2. How can you support your child emotionally during this period?
Leave the conversational doors open so your child can freely approach you with queries instead of using the Internet to find answers for his doubts. This will help avoid any chance of misinformation. Remember, with your support, your son can certainly sail through this phase of transition.
The author, Dr Manohar Shaan is an ENT specialist at a leading hospital in Mumbai.
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