Ava Sambora’s parents Heather Locklear and Richie Sambora have this divorced parenting thing down. Experts tell Yahoo Parenting why all co-parents could take a page from their playbook. (Photo: Coleman-Rayner).
The scene couldn’t have been more romantic, with the crystal blue ocean at their feet and towering mountains behind them as bikini-clad Heather Locklear posed for a picture in Bora Bora with Richie Sambora, arm around her shoulder. But this was no sexy getaway. The photo is just one of many images of the exes enjoying a trip to French Polynesia with their 17-year-old daughter Ava.
“[They] wanted to spend quality time together with Ava as a family,” a rep for the Bon Jovi rocker, 55, tells People. “They are celebrating her 4.2 GPA and her 11 scholarship offers from schools. They are proud of her.”
The former spouses, who divorced in 2007 after 12 years of marriage, often team up to spend time with the teen, whether it be at one of her cheerleading events, holiday gatherings, or on a tour of colleges she’s considering.
Locklear shared this proud mom photo captioned, “Our girl,” on November 9. (Photo: HeatherLocklear/Instagram)
“We’re better friends now than ever,” Sambora has said, explaining that his amicable relationship with the actress, 53, is intentional, on both sides. “If you don’t get along you are messing the kid up. That’s what happens. So you have to put that before whatever s— is going on. Communication has got to come first. There’s a cooling off period obviously, as you know. It takes time.”
All the effort is well worth it, Amy Morin, psychotherapist and author of the bestselling book 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, tells Yahoo Parenting. “The number one indicator of how a child will adjust to divorce is how the parents get along,” she says. “United parenting reduces a lot of stress on kids. They don’t have to worry about things like which parent to sit with at an event and they don’t experience the stress associated with a rigid custody schedule that could interfere with their activities. It shows kids that they’re still loved and can help them feel safe in a stable environment.”
Basically, when the parents are happy, the kids are happy. “There’s a lot of research that shows it’s not divorce that screws up kids, it’s the acrimony between the ex spouses,” Rachel Sussman, a psychotherapist and author of The Breakup Bible, tells Yahoo Parenting.
While some time together is beneficial, going overboard can send mixed messages to kids, depending on their age and temperament.
“Kids of divorce will tell you, it feels really nice when their parents are getting along because you don’t have [to] edit what you’re saying about dad to mom and vice versa,” says Morin. “They love that they can go to dinner together and such and if it’s not done regularly, they understand that the parents are not getting back together.”
Stick to once-a-week meals together, advises Sussman. “So young kids can get adjusted and see that Dad is going back to his own home.”
When exes spend too much time together, “kids could entertain the fantasy that their parents will reunite, especially the younger kids and the children of parents who just recently split up,” Morin adds. “Kids hold on for a long time to the hope of a reunion.”
What can mom and dad say to kids to make things more clear? “Parents can explain,” suggests Morin, “that they aren’t getting back together but that they love their child so much that they want to spend time together during special events.”
A minimum of united hanging out after a recent split also helps kids re-calibrate. “Spending a lot of time together at first may simply delay a child’s grief,” adds Morin. “So it’s important that parents don’t do that as a way to avoid their own grief — or as a way to try and completely protect the child from any pain. A divorce is painful and kids need an opportunity to grieve.”