io Ferdinand says Kate Wright is a healthy influence in the lives of his children.
The retired soccer star has three kids - Tia, seven, Tate, nine, and Lorenz, 11 - with his wife Rebecca, who died of breast cancer in 2015, and Rio feels the blonde beauty is helping to provide them with a much-needed female influence.
Rio told The Times magazine: "My relationship with Kate has helped in that they have got a female in the house now.
"They run past me sometimes to go to her. I've had to go through a period of being very, very open, and men aren't normally like that naturally.
"So having that extra person in the house who is female, who has that softer touch, I think is vitally important for the kids."
Kate quit "The Only Way Is Essex" amid rumours that she'd started dating Rio in 2017.
And she previously announced plans to step back from the public eye altogether to focus her attention on her burgeoning romance with the 39-year-old star.
She said: "I'm taking a step back from the public eye, I want to keep my life private as I lived my previous relationship on "The Only Way Is Essex", my priority right now is Rio and the family."
For Rio - who now works as a soccer pundit - his relationship with Kate is his first romance since the death of his wife.