By his own admission, the 70-year-old Republican presidential nominee isn’t the kind of father who changes diapers ― or volunteers to do any heavy lifting as a parent, really, besides providing financial support.
His kids, too, have spoken of his hands-off style of parenting.
In a CNN interview earlier this month, eldest daughter Ivanka Trump had this to say of her dad’s parenting efforts: “You know, he wasn’t always physically present, but he was always available.”
So how do you co-parent with someone like The Donald? As Trump’s second wife Marla Maples has suggested, you don’t.
“Her daddy is a good provider with education and such, but as far as time, it was just me,” Maples, 52, told People magazine of raising Tiffany, now 22, essentially as a single parent. “Her father wasn’t able to be there with day-to-day skills as a parent. He loves his kids. There’s no doubt. But everything was a bit of a negotiation.”
“Negotiating” with a mostly absentee parent, though, is not easy, especially if your ex is as drawn to conflict as Trump.
As a helpful guide to others struggling to co-parent with an ex who acts like Trump, we asked parenting experts to weigh in with some advice. See what they had to say below.
1. Shrug it off when your ex tries to buy your kids’ love.
Uninvolved parents often try to buy their kids’ affection through extravagant gifts and costly trips, said Kate Scharff, a psychotherapist and divorce mediator in Washington, D.C. That may infuriate you if you’re the primary parent and money is tight on your end, but remember: money can’t buy love.
“Many AWOL parents try to compensate with splashy gifts, but that’s not a substitute for loving attention,” Scharff said. “Swallow your disdain, let your kids enjoy the gesture and understand that they’ll need you to be there when the excitement fades and the sadness sets in.”
2. Remind your ex that the kids need them.
Parents like Trump tend to underestimate the importance of daily interaction with their kids. In an interview with New York magazine in December 2004, Trump admitted that “finding time” for his children was the hardest part of parenting ― though he still raved about his parenting skills.
“I know friends who leave their business so they can spend more time with their children, and I say, ‘Gimme a break!’ My children could not love me more if I spent fifteen times more time with them,” he told the mag.
The truth is, fifteen minutes at the park or attending an after-school basketball game means everything to a kid, said Randall Kessler, a divorce attorney in Atlanta, Georgia,
“Certainly for people like Trump, working hard has provided amazing opportunities for their children, but there is no way to put a dollar value on quality time spent with your kids.”
3. Adopt a business-like style of communicating with your ex.
Communicating with an ex who’s prone to conflict is no easy feat: If a discussion about who’s paying for summer camp results in your ex hurling insults and belittling you, don’t allow yourself to engage, said Morghan Richardson, a divorce attorney based in Astoria, New York.
“In the words of First Lady Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention, ‘when they go low, we go high,’’’ Richardson advised. “Set firm boundaries about communications and expectations. Always limit communications to text or email and then do not engage in fighting.”
When your ex tries to push your buttons, don’t take the bait.
“Keep your responses to nasty comments on topic (for instance, say, ‘Let’s keep these texts to issues about visitation’),” she said. “Being the better person is hard but at the end of the parenting road, it will pay off.”
4. Allow other family members to step in and help raise the kids.
According to Vanity Fair, Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric were often cared for by their maternal grandparents before their parents decided to send them to boarding school. In an interview with New York magazine in 2004, Donald Jr. opened up about his grandfather stepping up to the plate.
“My father is a very hardworking guy, and that’s his focus in life, so I got a lot of the paternal attention that a boy wants and needs from my grandfather,” he said.
If your ex is similarly out of the picture, remind yourself that a surrogate dad or mom is better than no one, said Lisa Helfend Meyer, a divorce attorney in Los Angeles, California
“If one or both parents are busy working, sometimes it does take a village,” she told HuffPost. “There’s value in long-term nannies or grandparents.”
5. Don’t badmouth your ex.
Sure, it drives you up the wall when your ex prioritizes an out-of-town golf junket over their custodial weekend, but avoid making your feelings known to your kids, said Scharff.
“Being critical of your ex puts your kids in the middle (they need permission to love both of you) and suggests you’ve forgotten who really loses out in this scenario — them.”
6. Be thankful your ex is a little hands off.
If your ex is prone to name calling and creating conflict whenever they come around, their distance may be for the best, said Alison Patton, a lawyer and mediator who wrote a blog about parenting with a high-conflict ex inspired by Trump.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say that co-parenting with a high-conflict or narcisstic ex can be a living hell,” she said. “Having a combatitve ex step out of the parenting arena, the way Trump did (while still providing financial support), would be a huge relief to parents I know who share custody with a narcissistic ex!”