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Now that Matthew Settle shares custody of one-year-old daughter Aven following his split with wife Naama, the Gossip Girl superstar is leaning on co-star Kelly Rutherford for support.

“She’s a good friend,” he tells me during a Pampers Dry Max event. “She’s a wonderful support. She’s going through something similar, and she’s a good person to call when I have questions.”

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He adds, “We encourage each other in a way of keeping our minds edified. When you’re going through a tragedy, you don’t want to get negative because it doesn’t help anybody. That’s how we help each other.”

Like Matthew, 40, who announced his separation in February from the woman he wed in July 2006, Kelly, 41, split from husband Daniel Giersch in December 2008 after she had become a parent. (Kelly is now mom to Hermes, 3, and Helena, 9 months.)

“It’s not easy going through such a big change,” Matthew confesses. “One of the toughest things is not seeing Aven every morning because that was our time. I would wake up in the morning, play music for her. I have such a broad array of music on my iTunes.”

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Still, he gets time with his #1 girl.

“We’re two blocks apart from each other, so it’s what it is. It’s never what you set out to do.”

Despite the circumstances, Matthew is doing everything he can to make his daughter’s first year a happy one.

Of her first birthday celebration, he says, “I put a candle on top of a red velvet cupcake, a number one, with a nice little wick coming out of it, then I lighted it.”

He continues, “I got it too close to her, I think. I tried to show her how to blow it out, and I was trying to show her how to go ‘pffffh,’ and she was like ‘I don’t know dad. That’s not something I’m used to.’ I think she’s going to be very cautious, and hopefully won’t go close to the stove. We keep the kitchen locked.”

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Lil’ Aven was showered with gifts on her big day.

“I went to Ralph Lauren Kids and splurged a little,” he tells me. “I got her seven or eight outfits, and it was really fun. I got her a couple cashmere pieces. They run in smaller sizes, so I bought them a little big, so hopefully she’ll be able to wear them until she’s two. We’ll roll the sleeves up. They’re really adorable — some little dresses and little onesies.”

She even says “dad.”

“She says it, and today, at my place, she likes to look up at the thermometer,” he says. “I live close to the archaic thermometer right around 57th Street. It doesn’t have all the lightbulbs working, and it looks like one of those carnival show things where you smash the hammer and the ball goes up. Around Columbus Circle. She loves looking up at that thing, and today I swear to God, she said ‘look at that,’ but the ‘at that’ didn’t quite come out correctly. I figure she’s trying to talk all the time. She says ‘dada.’ I think she means me.”

For Aven, her first year is becoming a year of mobility.

“We have a little Ikea push roller that my friend Gabby got me,” he tells me. “She strolls around the house with it. She’s still not quite confident. She’s taken steps already. She took her first steps about two weeks ago. She’s not quite confident, like coordinated. I had to turn her pacifier around in my mouth to get her to reach out for her pacifier. Then, she forgot she was standing, so she started walking for me, so I tricked her. I don’t know if that counts. She can walk. She can stand. Sometimes she’ll start standing by herself unaided. Usually she has a finger on something to steady herself. I think as soon as she gets over her fear of falling, she’ll start walking everywhere. I think she can already walk, like when she grabs on to her push cart, she’s all over the house.”

For more on Matthew and Kelly’s budding relationship, pick up the new issue of OK! on newsstands now. The cover line is Kim Kardashian & Britney Spears/“Diets That Work.”

Download this week's issue of OK! Magazine for only $1.99
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