"What she always conveyed is that we have the power to create the kind of home we want our kids to remember," Jenna Bush Hager says of mom Laura Bush


Jenna Bush Hager has a very special person to look to for guidance when it comes to raising two daughters: her mom, Laura Bush.

Bush, Bush Hager and the latter’s daughters Poppy Louise, 4½, and Margaret “Mila” Laura, 7, are featured in the upcoming May issue of Southern Living. In her interview, the Today show co-anchor shares that despite her mom not really being “one for dispensing advice,” some of the lessons she learned growing up alongside twin sister Barbara Pierce Bush still stick with her today as a parent.

“My mother never once compared my sister, Barbara, and me, and I try hard not to compare my girls,” says Bush Hager, 38. “If they are sad, scared or confused, [husband Henry Hager and I] let them feel those feelings and encourage them to talk about them with us.”

“We tell them that being who they are is great and makes their dad and me so proud and happy,” she adds.

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Jenna Bush Hager
Jenna Bush Hager (left) and her mother, former First Lady Laura Bush (right) with Hager children Mila and Poppy (front) posing for Southern Living Magazine
| Credit: Amy Dickerson/Southern Living
George bush family
Laura (R) and George W. Bush with daughters Barbara and Jenna in 1991

The mother of three — she and Hager, 41, also share 8-month-old son Henry “Hal” Harold — praises her mom for having “led by example” for herself and her sister as they grew up.

“She has a grace about her,” Bush Hager explains. “She’s unflappable, so even in the midst of trying times, she’s been the rock, the steady force that has kept our family calm in moments that were unspeakably turbulent.”

“Nobody was ever tense. Nobody was walking on eggshells,” she adds. “What she always conveyed is that we have the power to create the kind of home we want our kids to remember.”

Bush’s own mother, Jenna Hawkins Welch (who died last year at the age of 99, two days before Mother’s Day), “was a knowledgeable self-taught naturalist” who taught her daughter “to look up at the sky and the stars.”

“I can still remember bird-watching with her and lying on the grass on a blanket in the summer, looking up at the constellations,” Bush, 73, tells Southern Living, adding of the Texas town where she was raised, “In fact, Midland’s motto is ‘The Sky’s the Limit.’ Isn’t that great? It was so good to grow up there.”

Of what she learned from her mom about taking in “the beauty of the natural world,” Bush says, “Right now, that’s particularly good advice because everyone’s looking down at their screens.”

The May issue of Southern Living, which celebrates notable women and their relationships with their daughters right in time for Mother’s Day, is available Friday.