Shabbat dinner been a constant and a blessing my entire life.
Some of it is about the ritual. I think we all need ritual as an anchor and a comfort. Ours has certainly changed over the years: we say rather than sing the blessings and we say the blessing over wine rather than the full Kiddush; both are changes from what my kids learned at my parents' table, and from what I grew up with. We use our everyday dishes, where my mother used her good dishes until she didn't any more (I'm not sure whether it was the breakage or the hand-washing that prompted this change.) We don't make blessings after the meal. But there is still a direct line from there to her. As we did at my first home, the challah is passed from youngest to oldest.
The main thing is, we talk. There's extra effort in the meal. Growing up, it was almost always chicken, but my mother has gifted us with a million ways to prepare it. Now it's still often chicken - at least until barbecue season.
Shabbat dinner has cemented and shaped our entire family Our kids grew up knowing they were expected to be at Shabbat dinner barring only extreme extenuating circumstances. As did I. We all pushed back against it in our teens, to differing extents, but we knew what was expected. When I first moved out, my parents made it clear that we were still expected (but in the sense of welcomed; not demanded) to be there.
As the kids came along, this meant we made the trek to Thornhill with them as well. For their childhood, Shabbat dinner meant dinner at my parents' house. Since this was the same for all of us siblings (or at least, whoever was living in town at the time), this meant that Shabbat dinner was dinner with the cousins. It was chaotic, lively, rowdy, and love-filled.
And those Shabbat dinners created something amazing among those cousins. They see each other. They keep connected with each other. They have each others' backs. They care for each other. They love each other.
When my parents retired out of town, we lost that one place and time to all gather as an extended family. The kids have (almost) all grown up. We have scattered. Physical limitations and geography and work keep us from getting together every Shabbat. But we are still very much together.