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I have been writing about krim people: individuals who are very difficult to live, work and even associate with. Often by the time a spouse, colleague or friend realizes that someone is krim, he or she has already been ensnared in a dysfunctional relationship. Friends or acquaintances, however, can walk away from these individuals whose “krimkeit” can manifest itself in several ways: extreme neediness or clinginess; being hyper-critical or very controlling; exhibiting unreasonable hypersensitivity or intense jealously and seeing disrespect or rejection when there is no basis for that conclusion. Some krim individuals are delusional and have such a distorted perception of reality that their krimkeit and dysfunctional behavior is indicative of mental illness.

In my view, these difficult, stress-inducing people are toxic – I consider them cancer cells with faces. There are actually studies that suggest a link between stress and cancer. In an article at Psychcentral.com, Lisa Hurt Kozarovich writes, “Currently, there is no evidence that stress is a direct cause of cancer. But evidence is accumulating that there is some link between stress and developing certain kinds of cancer, as well as how the disease progresses…Other studies have gone as far as to show those women who experienced traumatic life events or losses in previous years had significantly higher rates of breast cancer.”

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Krim people are stress-inducing. Fortunately, friends or associates can choose not to further their association with these stressful people. Colleagues or employees can change jobs – although that is not always a financial option in a tight job market. A spouse can end the marriage – although the road to “freedom” may be long and draining and treacherous.

Tragically, though, the hapless, minor children of krim parents have no options – they cannot divorce their dysfunctional mother/father. They are trapped unless the dysfunction is so evident that outsiders intervene.

There are various levels of krimkeit that these children are exposed to, some relatively benign, and others so damaging that their ability to live normal lives and grow into emotionally healthy adults will be seriously undermined.

How to truly help children whose parents have personality disorders and are mentally unsound is way beyond my expertise or the scope of this article. That being said, I like to think I have some measure of common sense and experience and can offer some “entry level” suggestions on how to help these helpless neshamas. Those best in a position to help are teachers and parents of these children’s classmates. They can literally be a physical or emotional lifeline.

Sadly, there are mothers who, due to severe depression or gross indifference, are unable or unwilling to prepare nourishing food for their children. Teachers, especially in younger grades, should check their students’ lunches. Is there an appropriate amount, not enough or even too much? A pre-school teacher once told me about a student who would vomit before lunch because his mother, who had come from a Holocaust survivor family, would give him more food than an adult could finish and he would be reprimanded if he failed to eat it all.

I want to point out that there is a difference between unhealthy and eccentric. A lunch of sardines and bean sprouts does not mean the child is being fed inappropriately – it may be “yucky” to some but fine nonetheless. If the food looks unwashed or is spoiled or looks like the child packed it herself – just sugary snacks and junk food – those are red flags.

Are the children dressed properly for the weather? One woman I know ended her marriage because her very controlling mother-in-law insisted that children were “baby chicks” who needed to be “incubated” and would push the thermostat past 80°F. She felt her daughter-in-law was a “bad” mother because she would not put sweaters on the kids in the hot, humid summer when they went outside. Her husband would berate her for not listening to his mother who was older, more experienced and right.

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