Helping your teenage boy understand what’s going on with their voice and giving them the confidence to use it!
Seeing a growing lad with a squeaky, unstable voice is one of the classic hallmarks of puberty. It’s something that all males can relate to, and it makes for some funny real-life stories. When a teenage boy is in the midst of his class, surrounded by others experiencing the same thing, I imagine that he can more easily push aside all thoughts of vocal change. He has the opportunity to see that voice changes in puberty are normal and that all teenage boys go through it.
But now, we find ourselves living more in isolation. School is happening online, and social activities are severely restricted. Never before have teenagers been so reliant on speaking clearly and confidently to participate in online learning and connect with family and friends on video calls. Online class learning has become a great student equaliser. No longer can a teenage boy hide in the back of the class and wait until his voice has stabilised before participating in class discussions or answering questions in front of their peers.
None of us enjoys watching or listening to ourselves on video calls. So imagine how potentially nerve-wracking it must be for boys who are unsure what sound their voice will make when they open their mouths. When they appear to have lost all control of their voice at this challenging stage as it jumps from a deep, low resonance to the child-like squeak without any warning, our teenage boys may need a little extra understanding and support.
Here are a few conversations to have with the teenager in your life whose voice is “breaking”
Highlight the positives
Your voice is not ‘broken’. Instead, changes in voice pitch reflect a growth spurt that is part of ALL normal teenage development.
Your larynx (voice box) is lengthening, and the cartilage of your vocal cords is thickening. Imagine guitar strings, the thicker the string, the lower the sound. Your facial bones are growing and creating more space for your voice to resonate.
Your voice is ‘cracking’ only while your body is getting used to the new positioning of your vocal equipment. Once this growth period is over, you will likely be taller, with a deep, clear, resonant voice. But, you won’t have too long to wait!
Help them set up for success.
When it comes to having an online video call, we can do a few things as parents to help our teenagers prepare for success.
Appearance - we know that feeling good about the way we look builds confidence. So help your teenager to choose a top in a colour and style that suits them.
Set up the computer in a well-lit area that maximises natural light
Consider posture and position - sitting at the right angle can make all the difference in conveying confidence and competence.
Practise breathing techniques before joining an online class and continue to use breathing strategies to help keep stress levels under control during the call.
Encourage your teenager to smile, use gestures and move naturally
Above all, giving them an opportunity to practise with you will go a long way to build self-confidence.
Focusing on these positive steps to develop self-confidence on video calls will detract from the fear of a voice ‘glitch’. They will help your teenager know they can regain control of tricky vocal moments with a few deep breaths and a self-confident smile!
Alison McDonald, Director, Newcastle Speech Pathology