Working and learning from home in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak is presenting many new challenges for families, and the constant stream of news about the virus can create a lot of anxiety for parents and children alike. WGBH Morning Edition host Joe Mathieu spoke with Vice President of The Home for Little Wanderers, Matthew McCall, about how families can prepare and cope with the changes brought by the pandemic. The transcript below has been edited for clarity.

Joe Mathieu: How does the 24-hour news cycle, particularly regarding such a difficult story, affect children and adults?

Matthew McCall: Yeah, I think we see a pretty significant effect on both of those groups. When you're watching constant concerns about your own health and a limited ability to actively do something to maintain your safety, it can have a significant problem.

I think one of the big things that we're recommending to the clients that we work with, as well as our staff, is to just be really thoughtful about how much news you are accessing and particularly how you're accessing it. Are you watching the news in the living room with your children sitting with you, who may not be able to completely understand what they're watching and what they're hearing? Or are you getting your news over your cell phone or in other ways where you can just control your child's access to it and things like that? And then I think also really thinking about, what news outlets are you getting your news from? Are you getting them from reputable news outlets like WGBH, or are you getting them from really questionable outlets that may be giving you misinformation or things like that can increase fear and increase panic?

Mathieu: Is it because of the misinformation — and I'm not sure exactly what outlets you're referring to — or is it the kind of screaming cable news type of thing you're talking about, in terms of exposing kids to it?

McCall: I think it's a little bit of both, but I think we get a number of questions about "I read this on Facebook somewhere" or "I got this information from someone" who's sort of talking more about fears and anxieties and possibilities than about what we know to be true. And then I think, again, it's really about how much time are you spending absorbed within it versus "I'm going to spend this time with my family [and] my child" instead of spending the entire time sort of stuck to the news.

Mathieu: Keeping a schedule has been the guidance from most at this point, but I wonder how you fill a school day when parents are trying to work, some have to leave to go to a job [or] maybe go shopping. What's a realistic expectation as we try to build out the schedule for the week ahead?

McCall: So what we've tried to do with folks is to spend some time really thinking about, within the reality of what your world is today, how do you create a schedule? So really sitting down with your child [and] your family and thinking about, what's a reasonable time for us to get up? What are the things that we're going to do to replace some of the school stuff?

And what's been wonderful is that school districts, by and large, have provided an incredible amount of information to children and families, and access to telelearning and things like that in order to be able to continue to access educational activities. And then just scheduling out the rest of your day, too. When are we going to have family fun time, when are we going to watch television and when are we going to play games together as a family? Especially for younger children, they really crave that scheduled day and these kinds of things can really disrupt that. So thinking about how to make sure that there's time for those things can be very helpful for them.

Mathieu: So it sounds like it's good to have something to look forward to. Talk to me about the phone. Obviously, we don't want our kids on their phones all day, but we also want them to be able to stay connected [and] talk to their friends. How do you manage it? Does it depend on the age?

McCall: Yes and no. Certainly probably 2-year-olds are not going to be texting their friends. But I think, again, it's really about thinking about, how do you build in some scheduled time for that? We're in a place where we can't go to our friend's house for a play date and we can't go to the park and hang out. We can hop on Facetime and do homework together or play a game together. I have a family where the family is spread out and they're not all together, and the family is getting together every other night on Facetime to play Dungeons and Dragons together. And so thinking about how to help children have that, [and] at the same time being really careful.

When a child has a phone, they can get onto the news, they can get on to Facebook and they can read things that they may not understand and be confused about. And so I think just being more careful to monitor when they're on and then talking with them afterward to see did you hear something from a friend that you don't understand? Did you see something online that you don't understand? But it can be a really powerful tool right now in a time when we can't get together physically, we can get together virtually. And that can be a really helpful thing for children right now.

Mathieu: We've, of course, got our own ways of managing this as grown ups. And as families, maybe we talk about things more seriously than we should. As we're kind of figuring this out between spouses, for instance, or grown up family members, should we be doing that with the kids were away from them?

McCall: Generally what we recommend is a little bit of both. And it is actually a place where technology can be helpful because parents can text each other things that they're not sure they want to say in front of their kids. But thinking about and talking about as a parent, what are the things that I want to share with my child that's going on because obviously this is a weird time, and things shift and change on a daily basis. So it's good for them to have information, but just the right amount of it. And then sitting down with them and talking about here's this thing that's new. This is what you need to know about it. These are the things that you can do about it. And managing to that in a way that doesn't increase the anxiety of the child, but really helps them have the right kind of information.