WAYNE COUNTY, N.Y. (WROC)— A Wayne County woman is giving tips to parents and young children through her new book about navigating a world where smiles are now hidden behind face masks.
The book ‘Masks and Smiles’ addresses a serious challenge for young children who are still learning to communicate, but now have to do so with the added layer of face masks.
Dr. Hennessey Lustica, the author of ‘Masks and Smiles’, mental health director, and professor in Wayne county, noticed how hard it’s become to communicate as face masks hide facial expressions.
“To me, as an adult, it felt a little bit scary and a little bit anxiety provoking, and I thought wow this must really feel really weird for kids and especially my own kids. I have 3 little kids of my own,” said Dr. Lustica.
Wearing a mask is extremely important for safety, but it also takes away the smiles and facial expressions that so many of us depend on for interaction, especially young children.
Psychologists at the University of Rochester medical center have published reports helping young children adjust to the anxiety and barriers face masks can create.
“Facial expressions give us really important information about how other people might be thinking or feeling. They give us really important social cues for when we can talk, and not being able to read those may be really challenging for some kids,” said Dr. Melissa Heatly, Asst. Professor of Psychology at URMC.
Dr. Lustica came up with this book as a solution. ‘Masks and Smiles’ follows the journey of young students as they interact with bus drivers, teachers, and older family.
“All of the helpers in the book all have really cool masks on and behind its helpers’ masks is a really big ginormous smile, is how the book plays out,” said Dr. Lustica.
The book teaches young children how to look for nonverbal cues like eye expressions, while also highlighting how masks keep everyone safe. Dr. Lustica hopes that it can be another resource to talk to kids about what they’re seeing and how they might feel.
“I think that we just need a space to talk to kids about why the masks are so important, and to talk to kids about how the masks keep us safe. But just because we have the masks on doesn’t mean behind the masks we’re not smiling,” said Dr. Lustica.