Tarek El Moussa Reveals How He Went From Being an Absent Father to the "Best Dad Possible"

Tarek El Moussa on Gun Incident & Why Christina Hall Left Him

Tarek El Moussa calls his children his best friends. But the Flipping 101 star is first to admit that there was a point in his life when he was flopping at parenthood.

"I wasn't a great dad. I wasn't even a good dad," he told E! News' Francesca Amiker in an exclusive interview, referring to the fraught years leading up to his shocking split from Christina Hall in 2016. "I was stressed all the time. I was going through cancers and surgeries and hormones and steroids."

Bouts with thyroid and testicular cancer, using opioids after injuring his back and taking testosterone in an attempt to mitigate the effects of his various ailments ravaged his body and mental health. And in the middle of it all, he didn't realize he was tearing down what really mattered. 

Until his wife left him.

"Every single thing that upset me, every single thing that stressed me out, meant nothing," Tarek said. "The pain of losing my family was so much greater."

After Christina decided enough was enough, he realized he'd never really been on his own before with their daughter Taylor, who was only 5 at the time. "Next thing you know," he said, "I'm doing bath time and I'm combing her hair, and I'll never forget just crying. Because it was a defining moment of realizing what I had been missing and what's important in life."

photosTarek El Moussa and Heather Rae Young: Romance RewindTarek El Moussa/Instagram

Since then, Tarek added, "I'm proud to say I've been the absolute best dad possible."

He got emotional just thinking about how close he is with Taylor, now 13, and her brother Brayden, 8, compared to the years when "we didn't even know each other."

And the author of Flip Your Life: How to Find Opportunity in Distress—in Real Estate, Business and Life wants other struggling parents to know that it's never too late to start a gut renovation.

To the moms and dads who have "these negative feelings and bad relationships with their kids," Tarek said, "I want to tell them you can fix it, you've just got to invest the time."

Because, suffice it to say, the returns are priceless.

photosHeather Rae and Tarek El Moussa's Cutest Moments With Son Tristan

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Taylor is "such a beautiful, stunning young lady," the 42-year-old gushed, noting that the teen had always been his twin but nowadays looks "so much" like her mom. "She's thriving at school. She's a rock-star athlete, plays soccer, volleyball—and she's just such a happy, happy kid."

Brayden, meanwhile, is still Tarek's "mini-me" in a number of ways. "He's ADHD, a little anxious, a little jumpy," the HGTV fixture continued. "And we've been having so much fun focusing on sports with him—jujitsu, soccer and he's obsessed with basketball."

Instagram/Tarek El Moussa

As for Tarek's mini-est me, his 12-month-old son Tristan with wife of two years Heather Rae El Moussa, the toddler isn't tracking his steps yet like his big brother, but he will point to the family dog if you ask him where Bugsy is.

"That was a very cute moment," Tarek said of the positive canine identification. And this time around, Dad's busy (as in getting up at 3 a.m. so he can be done working by 6:30 p.m.) soaking up all the moments.

"I wasn't around very much with Taylor and Brayden," he admitted. "With Tristan, since the day he got home from the hospital we did skin-to-skin every night, he'd lay on my chest for an hour. I put in the work. And now my 1-year-old son, when he sees me, his eyes light up, he smiles, he throws his arms out."

Having missed so much with his older kids, Tarek said, "I will never make the same mistake twice."

photosFriendly Celebrity Exes

Balancing work and parenting is still a challenge, but the "bit of suffering" he endures—starting with that pre-dawn wakeup call—is beyond worth it.

And, naturally, he wouldn't be able to do any of it without Heather and his ex-wife, who married Josh Hall in April 2022.

Tarek said that he and Christina are "doing amazing," not just as co-parents but as friends—which was not always the case, including when they were still partnered on Flip or Flop as their marriage imploded off-camera.

Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

"We were upset at each other," he explained. "I was upset that she left me. She was upset that I acted the way I acted. We still had to work together. It took a big toll on our family."

But, he observed, "Time heals. And enough time has passed to where all the anger and rage and the negative thoughts, I feel like they're finally gone."

"You can't co-parent if you're angry, if you're holding things against your former spouse," Tarek added. "If you don't forgive, you're going to be stuck and you're never going to move forward. You've got to do it for your kids."

Tarek El Moussa Reveals How He Went From Being an Absent Father to the "Best Dad Possible"

Instagram/Tarek El Moussa

So while Heather is also his best friend and "biggest cheerleader," he's got to hand it to Christina.

If she hadn't walked out, "I wouldn't be sitting here today," Tarek said. "The best thing that happened to me in my life, and the worst thing, was her leaving. Because it forced me to completely rebuild my life, and I started from the inside out."

And Tarek isn't the only one who's done some domestic restructuring. Before you flip the page, here's your guide to his and Christina's sprawling family tree:

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