The Best Christmas Present from my Daughter


First a happy end of the year.

Like some lucky families on the planet, we are spending the holidays together. In our case Christine and I are with my brother Alan, and his adult children Sophia and Michael, and with our grown children Giselle, Yuri and Xavier and his significant other Olivia. We are all type A personalities, engaged in rewarding productive professional pursuits, and at this time piloting safely through the chaos of life.

Looking back, it’s sometimes hard to believe how lucky we are as parents. But, as a scientist, I would be hard put to summarise the conclusions and recommendations from our family experiments for those embarking on their own experiments in child rearing.

Maybe there should be required parent training, with a permit for parenting, as we require for driving, a much less dangerous activity. But then maybe given the struggles and inadequacies of our school systems, we should leave it to chance as we now do !

This blog is prompted by our daughter Giselle informing me that her first peer reviewed article has been accepted by a medical journal. She has ok’ed my publishing her abstract ahead of publication. The article is titled:

Consent for Unaccompanied Minors in Immigration Detention;  Advocating for Protection from Coercive Practices  : by Giselle Malina

Accepted for publication in:    The AMA Journal of Bioethics.

For reasons that have nothing to do with our parenting, from an early age she was interested in medicine. She took emergency medical training as a teenager, volunteered in clinics in Africa and South America, volunteered in a refugee camp in Greece with Syrian refugees. And now she is finishing medical school, with an interest in surgery (very far from Christine and my comfort zones ).

Her peer reviewed article studies the way a government, in this case the US government, separates children from their parents as ‘illegal immigrants’. Under-age minors are then treated medically, against the child’s will, and with no other consenting adult except the state. Often the children are medicated, drugged, to ‘calm them down’ if they are disruptive, angry or unhappy ( which would seem to be a perfectly desirable behavior of the children in their situation).

As an educator I am often ‘in loco’ parentis, as our governments are, in refugee or detention camps, but in my case a university. Empathy is easy to write about as is fashionable today, difficult to practice day to day.

So yes, Christine and I are proud that our daughter had her first peer reviewed article published. And in a topic embodying values that our own parents shared as traumatized survivors of World War II.  My parents help set up UNESCO, and Christine’s mother dedicated her later years to “remembering for the future”, to learn the lessons from the Nazi Holocaust.

In addition, both Christine and my fathers were pioneers in the new post WWII systems of scholarly and academic publishing that seeks, but doesn’t always succeed, at making sure the good stuff rises to the topic and the poor and fake stuff sinks to the bottom.

It’s not yet clear, as recent events reinforce, that our parent’s generation succeeded in setting in motion the redesign of our cultures. It’s clear a deep redesign is needed to prevent WWIII, never mind our forthcoming extinction in the Anthropocene.

Nor that our own generation is doing any better at re-imagining a new ‘enlightenment’ for the 21st century.

Redesigning culture it turns out is not just a matter of writing new laws and governmental structures as our parents perhaps hoped. It’s an iterative everyday process to enable complex system to ‘transition’ to a different behavior. I recently was exposed to the thinking of on transition design which may help as part of serving ‘in loco parentis’ for our planetary ecology.

So maybe parental training should include transition design to help their children transition to adulthood, and then to tackle the transitioning our culture to prevent ecological collapse ?

In the meantime, here is the Abstract of the article by Giselle that was just accepted.


Currently, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and detention facilities determine appropriate medical care for unaccompanied minors in immigration detention. This care may not be in the best interest of the child. In contrast, the juvenile detention system and medical research rely on child advocates and court orders to insure the best interest of the child, and avoid undue influence or coercive practices. With current policies increasing the number of minors and their length of time spent in detention, it is urgent that the medical community advocate for these same safeguards to be put in place for this vulnerable population.

Happy end of the year, whatever culture you belong to.

Roger Malina

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