updated 03/07/2014 AT 5:00 PM ET
•originally published 03/09/2014 AT 5:00 PM ET
Who says you can’t have eyes for your ex?
Richie Sambora couldn’t keep from gushing about his ex-wife Heather Locklear while celebrating his friend Ray Parker Jr.’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Thursday.
“She’s doing her thing on Franklin & Bash and she looks better than ever,” Sambora told PEOPLE at the after-party. “She’s still hot!”
Though divorced since 2007, the Melrose Place alum, 52 and her Bon Jovi guitarist ex, 54, remain very close. “We’re better friends now than ever,” said Sambora, who is proud of the fact that he and Locklear put their differences aside to focus on their 16-year-old daughter Ava’s needs from the get-go.
“If you don’t get along you are messing the kid up. That’s what happens,” the rocker tells PEOPLE.
“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. It was almost 10 years ago though. So we’re fine.”
The two are often celebrating holidays with Ava. “Thanksgiving or Christmas, we all spend it together,” says Sambora. And although he’s not the one in the kitchen cooking – “I’m an undomesticated cat,” he jokes – he was never shy to take night shifts when his daughter was a baby.
“When she was born, I was making a solo album here and when you are the boss you make your own hours,” Sambora explains. “Heather was working really hard on Spin City at that time and so I was the guy that got up in the middle of the night and changed the diapers. I was Dad.”
As for how Ava is doing today, he couldn’t be more proud of her.
“She’s a really good kid,” says Sambora. “You have to give them the tools to take care of themselves and almost force them when they are small to make decisions on their own so they then get in that groove.”
He said he did this by always communicating with her in a loving way. “I never talked down to her, even when she was a kid. [Now] I rarely have to reprimand her. She’s fantastic.”