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Divorced Couple Have A Sweet Reunion For Their Son's Birthday — But Get Accused Of 'Getting The Kid's Hopes Up'

Photo: maxareeg / TikTok
Parents preparing for their kids birthday.

Co-parenting after divorce is such a delicate matter, especially since how a couple handles things after their split can be a make-or-break thing for their kids. 

A couple on TikTok is doing an admirable job of navigating their co-parenting as they work to finalize their divorce, but their heart-warming and amicable approach to their son’s birthday isn’t sitting well with some other parents on the app.

A pair of divorcing parents on TikTok came together to put on a sleepover for their son’s ninth birthday.

Their level of amicability is unheard of for many divorced parents, and downright touching to anyone kids of divorce who dreamt of their parents being friends.

The couple's son said his only birthday wish was for his dad to sleep over, so his divorcing parents made it happen. Dad Max Areeg, whose username on the app is @maxareeg, posted a video of him and his soon-to-be ex-wife doing preparations for their son’s upcoming birthday while he slept. 

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The video is a sweet look at how things can go when parents put their kids first, over and above their own conflicts. They goof around as they fill up balloons, laugh as they hang streamers, and at one point, Areeg’s ex-wife even climbs up on his shoulders to affix balloons to the ceiling of the house while they crack up at Areeg’s struggle to keep his balance. 

The video ends with a sweet moment of the two relaxing together on the sofa in front of an episode of "New Girl," with Areeg playfully throwing a pillow at his ex’s head for sneakily recording him watching the show.

TikTokers absolutely loved the upbeat and playful vibe between these parents. "Sometimes the relief of [the relationship] being over allows you to be friends again," one woman wrote, and adults with divorced parents found it deeply meaningful that Areeg and his ex were able to do that.

"It is extremely sweet and selfless of y’all to do this. [I’m a] 32 y/o child of divorce and my parents just now don’t hate each other," wrote one user.

The vibe between the couple is so uplifting and sweet, in fact, that many commenters found it downright romantic, and were pulling for them to call off the divorce and stay together—and for some parents on TikTok that was precisely the problem.

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Some parents on TikTok criticized the divorcing couple, saying they’ll confuse their son and get his hopes up that they’ll get back together.

Most people loved the video, but there were definitely some who thought it was downright irresponsible. 

As one person put it, “This shouldn’t be romanticized,” and many others agreed, especially since scores of commenters felt like this couple were being “Parent Trapped” by their son. Users insinuated that his request for his dad to sleepover was a scheme to try to get his parents back together, as in the classic film "The Parent Trap" — "Your son knew what he was doing," one person commented.

Given that, several parents thought the couple was setting their son up for a damaging let-down. "Been there done that," one beleaguered parent wrote. "Did not end well, and kids hopes are up and get disappointed." Another mom agreed, accusing the couple of coming on to each other and confusing their son. "Sorry but this is flirting and going to give your kids a mixed message. Set boundaries and stick to it for your kids sake or just be together."

Others felt it was only a matter of time before this amicable relationship comes to a screeching halt and pulls the rug out from under the kids again. "All is good until he remarries an insecure woman who ruins your healthy coparenting relationship and has your kids call her mom & talk sh-t abt you," one woman wrote. 

Another mom agreed, adding, "I’m 2yrs divorced and this ends once the other gets a [girlfriend or boyfriend]."

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Experts say parents staying friends after divorce is best for kids, but making sure kids don’t have false hopes of their parents getting back together is critical.

There are no two-ways about it—divorced parents who like each other, or at least get along, are far healthier for kids than parents who hate each other’s guts. As the mom in the video below shares, it may not always be easy, but it is absolutely worth the work.

Child psychologist Karen Pavlidis agrees. She told Newsweek that “one of the most important factors related to children's adjustment after divorce is how much conflict persists between the parents…  It's great for kids when parents can stay friendly with each other after a divorce.”

And life coach Linda Perry told us in 2016 that divorced parents being willing to do things together like celebrate birthdays can go a long way toward giving children of divorce a sense of stability and safety within their new family structure. Likewise, life coach Ann Papayoti told us in 2021 that "communicating respectfully" was one of the "four basic things" kids want from their divorced parents.

But psychotherapist Matt Lundquist warns it’s absolutely imperative that parents be honest with their kids about exactly what their friendship actually means if they are going to remain close friends — like Areeg and his soon-to-be ex have done. 

Speaking also to Newsweek, Lundquist said, “Children often crave a more intact family, and wish for their parents to be together. It's important to look out for the hopefulness that can emerge when these close scenes take place... [E]ven with the positive, unlikely relationships that have been built, there's still grief for the children in their family not being intact in the way it once was."

Bottom line, as divorce coach Dr. Karen Finn told us in 2019, mutual respect and open communication are the bare minimums between divorced parents if they “want to do co-parenting right.”

There’s no doubt that Areeg and his ex have more than nailed that aspect, and their kids will surely be the better for it.

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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.