Friendships are important to every child. Peer relationships allow kids to see themselves against a larger backdrop, to learn empathy and sympathy, and how to fit in with society at large.Some kids are naturally shy or more reticent than others; it’s as basic as introverts and extroverts. Still, introverts, or people who are not as bubbly and public about everything, have friends, too—usually very deep and long-lasting friendships. Making friends isn’t always easy for some people, especially some kids who are naturally more withdrawn. So how on earth do you encourage friendships for your a child?

Tips for parents to encourage friendships with others:

Start Slow. The last think you should do with a shy child is to plunk him or her down in the middle of a busy play-date with a bunch of strange kids and expect miracles. That is a recipe for disaster, actually. Start slow and start small: one new kid, on your home turf, or on a common ground your child is familiar with.

Don’t Push. Think of it a bit like a romance: don’t push it. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Sometimes it will take a bit of time to elapse before they truly start warming up to each other.

Choose Play Friends Wisely. If you have a shy child, don’t ask the rowdy, rambunctious neighbor kid over as your first choice. Try to find someone more like your child, who won’t frighten or overwhelm them.

Provide Common Ground. Have some cool stuff to play with and do available, to avoid boredom. Do something fun, like go to a kid’s museum or animal exhibit, where the kids can get tactile. Get outside so they can roughhouse. All these things are conducive to bonding.

Teach Manners and Courtesy. No one worthwhile wants to be friends with a rude bully. So, do your kids a favor and teach them how to be polite, courteous, and kind. It goes a long way in fostering friendships and earning a good peer reputation.

Do Team Events. Encourage your child to participate in team-based events. This doesn’t mean just sports; it can include debate and other intellectual teams, clubs, volunteer groups, etc. They will meet like-minded kids and spend time with them in a positive arena. When they’re small, try out Gymboree, baby gymnastics, music and other groups, where they can get used to socializing with other kids early on.