TikToker Shares Life Co-Parenting, Including Having Dad Stay Over for Son's Birthday

Separated parents who still have to child-rear together need healthy communication, plenty of patience, and the establishment of clear boundaries.

Child greets father in driveway as mother watches from the car

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A trending TikTok video posted by Max Areeg shows two parents preparing for their son's birthday. The couple in the video playfully blew up balloons, hung decorations together, and the video ends with one tossing a pillow at the other. If it wasn't spelled out, one would never know that the couple was in the middle of a divorce. Areeg is seen on her soon-to-be ex-husband's shoulders, rubbing balloons onto his hair to generate static electricity to cling the balloons to the ceiling. The laughter and fun times shown are certainly not the common narratives of modern divorce.

I can attest to the necessary ingredients of a successful co-parenting relationship, having co-parented for more than eight years. Co-parenting is always a shared journey, whether it is a 50/50 split, or like mine, more of an 85/15. Separated parents who still have to child-rear together need healthy communication, plenty of patience, and the establishment of clear boundaries.

Many adults find boundary-setting and enforcing hard, let alone if they are dealing with grief, loss, or massive shifts in their lives and households. As someone much further along in the co-parenting journey than these two just getting started, I consider that evenings like this with dad sleeping over at the child's request, can lead to greater confusion and hurt over the long term. Over time, especially as one parent begins to start any new romantic partnership, situations like the one seen in this video may eventually dissipate. Most people in monogamous relationships really don't want to see their new partner on the shoulders of their ex.

That being said, this is a tiny moment in what is ultimately two strangers' lives, and as all social media is a curated performance to varying degrees, we don't know what it's like for them the rest of the time. Still, it is always a breath of fresh air to see healthy and positive moments of co-parenting.

In the past decade, I have witnessed bad behavior and horrid actions by people going through difficult and emotional divorces. One of the most common issues I've witnessed is a complete disregard for boundaries. I have seen a parent resort to hacking into their exes' phones to spy on their texts, hoping to use them as evidence in court. This invasion of privacy not only damages trust but can also have legal consequences. Another concerning behavior I've seen is a rush to introduce new partners to children. I knew a parent who moved in with a new partner after just a couple of weeks of dating and introduced both new partners' children as their "new siblings." This can be confusing and unsettling for children who are already dealing with the stress of their parents' divorce.

The most alarming behavior I've seen is the use of threats, particularly when it comes to custody battles. Hearing that a person uses "you will never see your children again" as a threat to an ex having a new relationship, is at the highest level of manipulation and emotional abuse. The people I have seen with the least healthy boundaries in my life have been those moving through divorce.

Over the years I have found myself returning to Prentis Hemphill's powerful statement: "Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously." Hemphill speaks to the importance of giving space to witness another as they are, even, and more especially, to those who have past harmed us.

While divorce is never "easy," even if you are decorating, laughing, and pillow-tossing for TikTok together, it is important for parents to remember that they are still responsible for setting a good example and prioritizing the well-being of their children. Parents can help ensure their children emerge from the divorce process as unscathed as possible, by knowing what healthy and loving boundaries look and feel like.

For me, the north star in co-parenting is my child. My child is always the top priority. Working to minimize exposing them to negativity, trash-talking, or petty conflicts has always been in their best interest. As parents, we can choose the battles that matter, and for those, attempt to handle them with good intentions and deep compassion. We can seek outside help, therapy, or support for ourselves and our child's well-being. We can make long-term best-interest decisions for our children and continue to build a co-parenting narrative that is healthy, loving, and transformative.

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