March 08, 2017 08:00 AM

 

Tarek El Moussa may have filed for divorce from his wife Christina in January, but that doesn’t mean things are contentious between him and his ex.

“I’ll always love Christina,” the Flip or Flop star says in the current issue of PEOPLE. “She’s the mother of my children.”

The El Moussas split became public in December but the couple actually parted ways after a shocking incident involving a gun last May.

Christa Renee

“I feel like a huge weight has been lifted since the news came out,” says Tarek, 35, who is also opening up about his secret testicular cancer battle, which he says was a factor in the downfall of his seven-year marriage.

As he and Christina move forward with their divorce, Tarek says the former couple is focusing on what matters most: their daughter Taylor, 6, and son Brayden, 18 months.

  • For more from El Moussa — including how his mental and physical health battles left him “miserable” in the final months of his marriage — pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

“We’re getting through this by staying great friends and being the best parents possible,” says Tarek. “Divorced couples who fight their whole lives really mess up their kids. We had a talk and said, ‘We still want the kids to understand we’re a unit — that we’re still a family even if we’re not together.’ ”

The El Moussas have both dated casually since their split, but Tarek says he’s currently “so far from even considering a new relationship.” And even if he does remarry someday, he believes he and Christina will “probably always spend holidays together” with their kids.

The El Moussas in 2015
Christa Renee

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Tarek — who moved out of his family’s Yorba Linda, California, home last summer and now lives in Newport Beach —  is currently splitting custody of Taylor and Brayden “pretty much 50-50” with Christina, and says the divorce has been an “adjustment” for the entire family.

Taylor talks about the split “with classmates going through similar things. That makes her feel better,” says Tarek, who adds that his new his new life in Newport Beach allows him to dedicate himself to what makes him the “happiest: being the best father possible.”

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