Kristin Cavallari/Instagram
Maria Yagoda
December 07, 2016 02:00 PM

Kristin Cavallari is no stranger to public scrutiny.

Yet the former reality star — who shares daughter Saylor James, 1, and sons Jaxon Wyatt, 2½, and Camden Jack, 4, with her Chicago Bears quarterback husband Jay Cutler — says that she gets extra defensive when criticisms are hurled at her family, especially on social media.

“I’ve been dealing with criticism since I was 17,” Cavallari admits, referring to her days on the hit MTV show Laguna Beach, while chatting with PEOPLE at a Young Living essential oils pop-up. “When it’s me, I can handle it, I can take it. I have thick skin.”

Continues the author and shoe designer, 29, “When it’s about my kids or my husband, I get really defensive. And then I become a little fighter, and I’ve been known to get a little trigger-happy sometimes.”

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Whenever people attack her family or parenting skills, Cavallari reminds herself that she’s confident in what she’s doing and that her kids are happy and healthy.

“It’s hard. At the end of the day, I have to remind myself, especially when it comes to my kids, I’m so confident in what I’m doing as a parent, what Jay and I are doing, and my kids are happy and healthy, and that’s ultimately what matters,” she says.

“So someone’s going to judge me who doesn’t know me? It is what it is. I can’t get hung up on that. I know what I’m doing is okay. It’s working for us, and that’s all that matters.”

Happy 1st birthday my sweet little angel, Saylor. I am the luckiest girl in the world to be your mama 💕

A post shared by Kristin Cavallari (@kristincavallari) on

With the holidays approaching, Cavallari is excited to spend a low-key Christmas with her family and start their own traditions. She has already set up an Elf on the Shelf, with plans to get her Christmas tree and visit Santa — which her kids are very excited about.

“Christmas is so magical to them,” she says. “This is the first year we’re going to do it just us. We opened up our house to everyone on Thanksgiving because Christmas we’re going to keep just us.”

She adds, “We have three kids, so it’s time to start our own traditions and have something that’s just us.”

RELATED VIDEO: Kristin Cavallari Opens Up About How She’ll Handle the Teenage Years with Her Daughter

Cavallari, who celebrated her daughter Saylor’s first birthday in November, told PEOPLE she feels as though everything in her life has fallen into place.

“Becoming a mom is really where I’ve blossomed … I finally feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be in my life,” she says.

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