What does Sikhism say about family life?

The family is an essential social structure and unit in Sikhism. Family life was encouraged by Guru Nanak and the Gurus who succeeded him.

Roles of men and women in the family

Sikh women have total spiritual equality with men, but the roles of men and women differ. Men are more active in society at large and women have more responsibilities in the home.

Women are traditionally seen as mothers and have the important role of bringing up the children within the family, as reflected in the teachings by Guru Nanak:

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We are conceived and born from women. Woman is our life-long friend and keeps the race going. Why should we despise her, the one who gives birth to great men?Guru Granth Sahib page 473

Traditionally, Sikh fathers may have been the provider for the family financially. However, it is increasingly the case that families depend financially on the salaries of both parents. In modern society, Sikh fathers' roles may increasingly include active involvement in childcare and in the upbringing of children. The Guru Granth Sahib compares the relationship of the creator and creation to that of father and child. God is called both father and mother.

Protection and nurturing

Sikhs are encouraged to live as a family unit to provide and nurture children for the benefit of creation. Sikhs emphasise the importance of the family and the householder stage of life, ie being parents and providers for their children. They do not encourage opting out of these responsibilities even if it is for a spiritual goal.

Sikhs, like other members of South Asian society, take it for granted that it is the duty of sons and daughters-in-law to look after the son's parents.

Parents and children

Sikhism is based on principles of respect and equality. Children (like those in all South Asian communities) are taught to respect their parents.

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If you honour your parents, your children will honour you.Guru Granth Sahib

Parents are the primary role models for children. They should lead by example and develop their children into moral members of society, cultivating a culture of respect and equality:

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You are my father, You are my motherGuru Arjan, Guru Granth Sahib page 103

Family's faith and spiritual development

In many families, children are introduced to the faith through the example of their parents and extended family members. They are taught stories about Guru Nanak and the later Gurus. Parents can therefore hope that their child becomes Gurmukh rather than Manmukh.