Plus, what did the RHONJ star tells her girls before she left?

Credit: Gillian Laub

Teresa Giudice had a strong support system while she was prison, especially from her Real Housewives of New Jersey costars.

“They’ve been amazing,” Giudice, 43, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive video. “They’ve reached out before, during and after.”

The most supportive housewife was her sister-in-law Melissa Gorga, she says. Giudice and Gorga haven’t always gotten along in the past, and this entire experience helped them repair their relationship.

“I think Melissa and I just realized what’s important in life, that family is the most important thing.” Giudice says. “We’re just going to both be there for each other and not let anything get in the way.”

For PEOPLE’s full coverage of what’s going on with Teresa Giudice and her family these days, visit

Teresa’s husband Joe Giudice,43, and four kids–Gia, 15, Gabriella, 12, Milania, 10, and Audriana, 6– were the ones who helped Teresa “get through this entire ordeal.”

“I’m a mom. I live for my daughters,” she says. “Every morning I woke up, that’s who I thought about.”

Before Teresa left for her 11 month stay in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut, she had to decide what she was going to tell her daughters. She told Gia, the oldest, the truth, and she told the “little ones” that “mommy was going to work” and would be writing a book. Garbiella and Milania knew that book was about life in prison because Teresa figured they’d find out where she was when they came to visit.

“When they get older, I’m going to, of course, sit down them and explain the whole situation to them,” Teresa says.

For much more from Teresa Giudice, plus an exclusive interview with her husband Joe as he prepares to serve his own prison sentence, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE Magazine, on newsstands Friday

When the girls and Joe visited her in Danbury, they didn’t let the setting ruin their reunion with their mother and didn’t ask too many questions about why she was there.

“They were just happy to be with me, happy to spend time with mommy. They were attached to me, and poor Joe, every time they would come to see me, he would have not time with me,” she says.

RELATED VIDEO: Melissa Gorga Opens up About Teresa’s Return From Prison

And, while she was away, her girls stepped up to the plate and kept their rooms and home immaculate. Friends who visited the house would send her updates letting her know the home was still clean and the way she left it.

“That made me feel good,” she says.

Teresa’s memoir Turning the Tables: From Housewife to Inmate and Back Again, written with PEOPLE’s K.C. Baker, was released on Tuesday.