November 13, 2018 03:26 PM

Michelle Obama says her daughters, Malia, 20, and Sasha, 17, are well-adjusted despite spending eight incredibly formative years in the White House under intense public scrutiny.

“They’ve managed the situation with poise and grace and they are normal and kind and smart and friendly and open,” Obama raved about her daughters on Good Morning America Tuesday. “It could’ve gone so wrong.”

One secret to why they’ve fared so well? The former first lady, 54, credits past first daughters who paved the way for Malia and Sasha — and have stood up for their fair treatment in the years since.

The Becoming author continued, “I’ll also say they had a lot support from the other former first kids. Jenna and Barbara and Chelsea. I love those girls, I’ll love them forever for the kind of support they provided to my daughters … They always had their backs. Whenever someone went after them in the press, Jenna would get in there and say something. Chelsea would send a tweet out. That made a big, big difference.”

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Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush, both 36, are the fraternal twins of George W. Bush, who was in office from 2001 to 2009. Chelsea Clinton, 38, is the only child of Hillary and Bill Clinton, another two-term president from 1993 to 2001.

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Jenna and Barbara wrote a heartfelt open letter to Malia and Sasha in January 2017 as they prepared to leave the White House. The letter, which was first published in full by Time, welcomed the Obama girls to the “rarified club” of former first children and urged them to ignore critical voices and trust in their own hearts.

“You have listened to harsh criticism of your parents by people who had never even met them. You stood by as your precious parents were reduced to headlines. Your parents, who put you first and who not only showed you but gave you the world. As always, they will be rooting for you as you begin your next chapter. And so will we.”

Chelsea has also spoken out in Malia and Sasha’s defense. In November 2017, she called out a “loathsome” tabloid story that claimed — apparently falsely — that Malia Obama had been questioned in an FBI investigation.

“Loathsome. Just loathsome,” Clinton wrote in a tweet at the time. “Please leave Malia alone to lead her own life & keep her out of your (shameful) agenda!”

Michelle Obama
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Mrs. Obama also chatted with anchor Robin Roberts about her own mom, Marian Shields Robinson, who raised Obama on the South Side of Chicago, an area associated with high levels of crime, though the reality is much more varied.

RELATED: Michelle Obama Dishes on Malia’s Prom Night: ‘Be Cool,’ Malia Asked the President and First Lady

“My mother is a South Side mother who really thinks, ‘Why do I wanna be bothered?’ ” the Harvard grad joked. “We travel around the world, and I’m like, ‘Mom, you wanna go to China with us?’ ‘Why would I wanna go to China?’ … Black mothers on the South Side, you gotta push them to try some new stuff. I’m still doing that with her.”

Malia, Michelle and Barack Obama
KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Obama recently opened up to PEOPLE about another important dynamic in her family, her relationship with her husband, former President Barack Obama, 57. She discussed in detail a time when the couple sought help from a marriage counselor.

“Because we’re role models, it’s important for us to be honest and say, if you’re in a marriage and there are times you want to leave, that’s normal — because I felt that way,” she explained. “My mother would talk about leaving my father in the spring, when she’d do spring cleaning,” Obama said, recounting one story in her hotly anticipated memoir. “There were definitely times when I wished things were different, but I don’t think I ever thought, ‘I’m just checking out of this.’ “

RELATED VIDEO: Michelle Obama Says She ‘Stopped Even Trying to Smile’ During Donald Trump’s Inauguration

In Becoming, Obama gets candid about the difficulties she and the former president have faced. Though their commitment to each other has remained steadfast since their marriage in October 1992, their lives got more complicated as they struggled to get pregnant and after they had their two daughters.

Michelle, Sasha and Barack Obama

“I know too many young couples who struggle and think that somehow there’s something wrong with them,” she said in a recent ABC News special. “And I want them to know that Michelle and Barack Obama, who have a phenomenal marriage and who love each other, we work on our marriage. And we get help with our marriage when we need it.”

Becoming is on sale now.

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